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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 January, 2004, 13:15 GMT
Harold Shipman found dead in cell
Harold Shipman
Shipman is thought to have killed at least 215 people
Killer doctor Harold Shipman has died after being found hanging in his cell in Wakefield Prison.

Shipman was discovered at 0620 GMT on Tuesday by staff who tried to revive him, but he was pronounced dead at 0810 GMT.

He was jailed for life in January 2000 for murdering 15 patients while working in Hyde, Greater Manchester.

An official report later concluded he killed between 215 and 260 people over a 23-year period in Hyde and Todmorden, West Yorkshire.

The 57-year-old GP was given 15 life sentences to run concurrently for the murders, and four years for forging a will.

He was the UK's most prolific convicted serial killer, but always denied his crimes.

Jane Ashton-Hibbert, whose grandmother Hilda was unlawfully killed by Shipman, said she was angry he had been allowed to die.

She told BBC News: "This seems like an easy way out for him. He never showed any remorse or any guilt and that door is now closed to us."

I just wish he had been forthcoming and admitted he had done those things - it would have put a lot of people's minds at rest
Kathleen Wood
Granddaughter of Shipman victim

And Kathleen Wood, whose 83-year-old mother Bessie Baddeley died in 1997, said: "I am not sorry he has gone, but it brings it all back and it stirs it all up for us again."

A Prison Service spokeswoman said he used bedsheets to hang himself from the window bars of his cell.

"He was showing no signs whatsoever of pre-suicidal behaviour at all," she said.

"He was behaving utterly normally. He was working as normal and doing education as normal.

"There was absolutely no indication that this was coming and he was giving no cause for concern."

Shipman widow

Prisons Minister Paul Goggins said prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw would carry out an investigation into Shipman's death.

A separate police and coroner inquiry is also to be carried out.

Shortly after 1100 GMT, an undertaker's van took Shipman's body from Wakefield prison to the Medico Legal Centre in Sheffield for a post-mortem and formal identification.

The GP, who leaves a widow, Primrose, was on suicide watch at two other prisons earlier in his sentence, but not at Wakefield since his arrival on 18 June last year.

Wakefield Prison
I don't think it fair or reasonable to suggest prison officers at Wakefield Prison were lax
Brian Caton
Prison Officers' Association

BBC home affairs correspondent Andy Tighe said the death would be very embarrassing for the Prison Service, coming after Soham murderer Ian Huntley attempted suicide by taking a drugs overdose in Woodhill Prison last year.

Fred West was found hanged in his cell in Birmingham on New Year's Day 1995 while awaiting trial for multiple murders.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane, said: "The death of Harold Shipman exposes what we already know.

"The prison psychiatric services are threadbare and unable to supervise either those with known mental illness or a history of suicide attempts."

But Brian Caton, of the Prison Officers' Association, said Shipman had given no indication of suicide in interviews or in his interaction with prison officers.

Last month it emerged that the serial killer had been stripped of his privileges at Wakefield because of poor behaviour.

But the benefits - such as a television in his cell and the right to wear personal clothing - were returned last week.

You used a calculating and cold-blooded perversion of your medical skills
Mr Justice Thayne Forbes
Shipman trial judge
A police officer read a statement to the media from outside Primrose Shipman's house in Walshford, West Yorkshire.

It said there would be no comment from the Shipman family and added: "They have asked you to respect their privacy. This is a very upsetting time for them."

Within hours of his death, the word "justice" had been scrawled 12 times across his former surgery in Hyde.

The vast majority of Shipman's victims were elderly women who were given lethal heroin injections.

Attempted forgery

He was brought to justice after attempting to forge the 386,000 will of one of his victims, Kathleen Grundy, 81.

After the trial, a public inquiry was launched into how the GP was able to escape detection for so long.

It was chaired by High Court judge Dame Janet Smith, whose first report, in 2002, found the former GP had killed at least 215 patients and possibly as many as 260.

Her final report is due out in the summer.

Of Shipman's 215 likely victims, 171 were women and 44 were men.

The oldest was a 93-year-old woman, the youngest a 41-year-old man.

The BBC's James Westhead
"He was treated like a normal prisoner on an ordinary wing"


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