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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 13:31 GMT
Infamous British serial killers
Harold Shipman
Shipman was found dead in prison on 13 January 2004
Dr Harold Shipman was the UK's most prolific serial killer, but he heads a long line of infamous murderers.

Men and women have been convicted of killing for money, for sexual reasons, because of psychological illness and even to advance up the social ladder.

Dr Harold Shipman 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 always denied his crimes and was found hanged in his cell in January 2004.


Rose West
Rosemary and Fred West buried their victims under their patio
Probably the most notorious British serial killers of recent history are Fred and Rosemary West, who abducted, tortured, raped and murdered an unknown number of women over a 20-year period.

They buried many of their victims under their home at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester.

Fred West eventually committed suicide before being brought to face charges of murdering 12 people, including his first wife and eldest daughter.

Rose West was convicted of 10 murders at Winchester Crown Court in November 1995 and is serving life in Holloway prison in north London.


Another notorious serial killer was nurse Beverley Allitt, who suffered from psychological illness.

In the spring of 1991, Allitt worked at the Grantham and Kesteven Hospital.

Over a 58-day period that year, a series of mysterious deaths, illnesses and injuries struck the hospital.

Two years later, the paediatric nurse was convicted at Nottingham Crown Court in 1993 on 13 charges of murder and causing grievous bodily harm.


Serial killer Dennis Nilsen in 1983
Police learnt of Nilsen's murders when body parts blocked drains
Dennis Nilsen claimed to have killed 16 young men by luring them back to his flat in Muswell Hill, north London, before strangling them.

Nilsen calmly confessed to the murders when police were called in following the discovery of human flesh by a drains engineer investigating complaints of an unpleasant smell.

When challenged, Nilsen showed detectives body parts and a pair of severed heads he had yet to dispose of.

He was convicted of six murders and jailed for life in 1983.


Few serial killers can lay claim to the level of fear inspired by Peter Sutcliffe's reign of terror as the Yorkshire Ripper.

Sutcliffe became the subject of one of the largest police manhunts as he preyed on women across the north of England during the 1970s.

Though he later claimed he was driven to murder 13 women by messages from God, the Crown decided he was fit to face murder charges.

He was sentenced to no less than 30 years behind bars.

Moors Murderers

Myra Hindley
Hindley died from pneumonia and heart disease in 2002
Though well down on the list in terms of lives claimed, Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, both given indefinite life sentences, were two of Britain's most demonised figures.

Their attacks on five small children, whom they disposed of on Manchester's bleak Saddleworth Moor in the 1960s, scandalised the nation and continue to cause outrage.

In 1966 they confessed to killing three children and then another two in 1987.

Hindley died in November 2002.

'Acid bath vampire'

John Childs: burned the bodies of his six victims at his east London flat. Jailed for life in 1980
Colin Ireland: terrorised London's gay community, torturing and killing five homosexuals. Jailed for life in 1993
Jack the Ripper: never identified or caught, he killed at least five women around London's East End in 1888
John Christie: Landlord who gassed eight people and sexually interfered with their corpses. Hanged in 1949
Ken Erskine: The 'Stockwell Strangler' murdered seven pensioners. Jailed for 40 years in 1988

Among the more elaborate murderers lies John Haigh who was branded the "acid bath vampire".

Haigh claimed to have drunk the blood of the six victims he disposed of in vats of acid.

A forger and fraudster, he befriended his victims before faking legal documents to secure money and possessions after their death.

Although he tried to plead insanity, Haigh was convicted and hanged in 1949.


Victorian poisoner Mary Ann Cotton is widely held to have sent more than 20 victims to an early grave.

She was convicted of six murders in 1873 and hanged in Durham jail.

Across a 20-year period, her life was marked by determined efforts to scale the social ladder and the number relatives who died - of remarkably similar symptoms - in her presence.

Cotton was eventually caught when a post mortem examination on one of her children revealed arsenic poisoning as the cause of death.

World's worst killers
09 Mar 04  |  In Depth
Brady book shows no remorse
30 Nov 01  |  England
Rose West 'drops appeal plans'
30 Sep 01  |  England



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