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Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 13:50 GMT


Doctor 'made bereaved family feel guilty'

Harold Shipman denies murdering 15 of his women patients

Doctor Harold Shipman made the children of one of his alleged victims feel guilty for not knowing their mother was "ill", a court has been told.

The Shipman Trial
Pamela Hillier, 68, was found dead in her bedroom in Mottram, near Hyde, Greater Manchester, on an afternoon in February 1998 when Dr Harold Shipman was due to visit her.

Dr Shipman, 53, of Mottram, is accused of murdering 15 patients and forging the will of one of them. He denies all the charges.

Mrs Hillier's daughter Jacqueline Gee told Preston Crown Court that her mother had mildly high blood pressure.

But when she and her brother visited Dr Shipman the day after Mrs Hillier's death, he told them her mother had died from a stroke, she told the court.

"We were totally confused," said Mrs Gee.

[ image: Mrs Gee and her brother visited Dr Shipman's surgery in Hyde]
Mrs Gee and her brother visited Dr Shipman's surgery in Hyde
"I can remember coming out of the surgery feeling guilty. He was trying to intimate that mum was poorly and we should have expected that she might have died at any time."

Dr Shipman said he could tell the cause of death "from the way she was lying", said Mrs Gee.

"He explained that if she had had a heart attack she would have been holding her chest or reaching for something."

Her brother Keith Hillier said they asked for a post mortem examination, but accepted Dr Shipman's reply.

"He felt it was unnecessary. He had diagnosed the cause of death accurately and he also pointed out it was an unpleasant thing to happen and unpleasant thing to put mum through," Mr Hillier said.

The court heard a statement from a police computer expert detailing computer entries for Mrs Hillier, which were allegedly altered by Dr Shipman on the afternoon of her death, two hours before her body was found.

One entry dated three days before her death said Mrs Hillier had raised blood pressure and that Dr Shipman had spoken to her about diet and exercise.

Knee problem

But Mrs Gee said she had no recollection of her mother, who was exceptionally active, having seen the doctor on that day.

She said Mrs Hillier had been in good health apart from a knee problem, for which she had been due to see the doctor on the day of her death.

Mrs Gee's husband Martin told the court how he arrived at Mrs Hillier's home shortly after her death to find his wife with Dr Shipman.

He told the jury: "My wife was asking very sensible questions and Dr Shipman was extremely unhelpful and uncaring towards a daughter who had just lost a mother.

"I will always remember Dr Shipman's words were: 'Put it down as a stroke'."

Mrs Hillier's next-door neighbour Peter Elwood found her body after he was asked to investigate by Mrs Gee, who could not contact her mother.

'Unjustified diagnosis'

Paramedics arrived shortly afterwards, followed by Dr Shipman, he said.

Mr Elwood told the court: "I heard one of the ambulancemen say: 'I shall have to notify the police, this is a sudden death at home'.

"I heard Dr Shipman say: 'I don't think there is any need to do that."'

Dr John Grenville, a GP called by the prosecution as an expert witness, said Mrs Hillier had been diagnosed with slightly high blood pressure in 1995 but this had been extremely well-controlled with a low dosage of medication.

He said that Mrs Hillier was at no greater risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack than any other member of the population.

Asked if Dr Shipman's diagnosis of a stroke was justified. Dr Grenville replied: "No."

The trial continues.

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