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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK


Patient 'killed as friend sat next door'

Dr Shipman denies murdering 15 women patients

Dr Harold Shipman murdered an elderly patient while her friend waited in an adjoining room so as not to disturb them, Preston Crown Court has been told.

The Shipman Trial
The allegations came as the prosecution opened its case against the family GP, who denies 15 charges of murder.

Richard Henriques, QC, said Dr Shipman killed 81-year-old Marie West in her own home with a lethal dose of morphine, but did not realise her friend Marian Hadfield was standing in the kitchen next door.

It was 6 March 1995 and the two women were having tea at Mrs West's home, the jury was told.

Mrs Hadfield left her friend in the living room and walked through the kitchen to go to the toilet upstairs.

Five minutes later, when she returned, she heard Mrs West talking to a man in the living room.

Room went silent

She assumed it was Dr Shipman and remained in the kitchen so as not to interrupt.

"She could hear Mrs West talking to Dr Shipman but could not make out what was being said," Mr Henriques said.

"After they had been talking everything went quiet and Mrs Hadfield assumed that Shipman was about to go.

"However, after several minutes the defendant walked into the kitchen where Mrs Hadfield was standing discreetly and quietly.

Doctor shocked

"Shipman appeared surprised and said: `I didn't know anybody was here'."

Mr Henriques said Dr Shipman told her that he was looking for Mrs West's son and that Mrs West had collapsed.

Mrs Hadfield asked if there was anything that could be done but Dr Shipman replied: "No, she's gone."

She returned to the living room and found her friend in the chair exactly as she had left her - except that her eyes were closed and that her head was resting on her right shoulder.

Diagnosis 'impossible'

Dr Shipman went over to Mrs West and opened her eyes and said: "See, there's no life there."

According to the prosecution he said he had taken her blood pressure, then gone out to the car and when he returned he found that she had had a massive stroke.

But Mr Henriques said this explanation was not consistent with the account by Mrs Hadfield and that it would have been impossible to diagnose the cause of death without a post mortem.

On 7 September, police officers searched Dr Shipman's home and found a box of medical records, including those for Mrs West.

An independent GP examined the records and said he was surprised at the lack of detail given when a patient died unexpectedly in his presence, the jury was told.

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