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The Shipman files Monday, 31 January, 2000, 16:41 GMT
Breaking the story
Mikaela Sitford of the Manchester Evening News was the first journalist to write about the investigation into Dr Harold Shipman.


Nestling in the grey-green girdle of the Pennines is an old fashioned little town famous for murder.

Hyde, home to Britain's biggest serial killer Dr Harold Frederick Shipman, was previously best known for the Moors Murders.

It is a label it does not deserve.

Hyde is a place where families live on each others doorsteps and everyone knows everyone else's business, home to a close community with a good heart.

Still these women, and countless others Dr Shipman is suspected of killing, were not safe here.

Hyde was on my patch as the Tameside district reporter for the Manchester Evening News. It was my favourite of the borough's nine towns, rolling down from Werneth Low, where on a clear day you could see right across Manchester, down the steep leafy street of Gee Cross, to the bustling town centre which still boasted a traditional market.

Even the tacky modern shopping precinct with its bargain stores and butty shops added to Hyde's attraction.

Such a rich tapestry, as they says. Such a great source of stories.

Police investigation tip-off

But the Shipman story was too tragic to be relished.

I came across it in August 1998 after the Manchester Evening News was tipped off about a police investigation into the death of Kathleen Grundy, a former mayoress of the town, which involved her GP.

I rang the police, who reluctantly confirmed their investigation, then took off to Gee Cross to seek out Mrs Grundy's friends and neighbours to ask them for a tribute to the tireless charity worker.

I will never forget what happened next. "Oh, you mean Dr Death," announced one old dear as I stopped her friend on the street.

"Lots of old ladies have died under Dr Shipman.

"They exhumed Mrs Grundy the other night. Such a shame. She was a lovely lady and she cannot rest in peace."

'No comment' from the doctor

The police were finally forced to admit they were investigating 20 deaths, all patients of Dr Harold Frederick Shipman.

Nor will I forget meeting the GP.

I had to give Dr Shipman his chance to speak out, to tell the people of Hyde and beyond he was innocent and put his patients' minds at rest.

He did not take it.

Instead he pushed a piece of paper across the reception desk towards me. "I have no comment to make," he said coldly. "Ring that number."

As I left, an old lady sitting in the waiting room tut-tutted in sympathy for Dr Shipman.

She was not to know that "the best doctor in Hyde" had been silently and relentlessly murdering her fellow pensioners for years and years.

The case proved a long distressing ordeal for many, many people in Hyde and beyond.

The town waited helplessly as 12 women were removed from their graves in macabre night-time exhumations, as the charge list grew and grew, as detectives hunted for evidence and as the bereaved were called up to give evidence at Preston Crown Court.

But the "small army" of sons, daughters, friends and neighbours put up a feisty fight to win justice for their lost ones.

Their courage and strength was heartening, but Hyde still has a long way to go.

Find out more about the Shipman murders

Trial and reaction

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

31 Jan 00 | The Shipman files
31 Jan 00 | The Shipman files
31 Jan 00 | The Shipman files
31 Jan 00 | The Shipman files
31 Jan 00 | The Shipman files
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