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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 22:39 GMT


GP prescribed drug 'after patients' deaths'

Dr Harold Shipman denies all charges against him

GP Harold Shipman, who is on trial for the murder of 15 women patients, prescribed diamorphine for five of them after their deaths, his trial has heard.

The Shipman Trial
The jury at Preston Crown Court was told that during a three-month period in 1993 the GP prescribed a total of 150mg of diamorphine - the clinical name for heroin - for the patients, although they had died up to four days earlier.

The drug was dispensed from the chemist's shop next door to his surgery, the court heard.

Richard Henriques QC, prosecuting, read to the jury a list of 18 more of the doctor's patients who were prescribed diamorphine which was either never administered to them, or given in smaller doses than were dispensed.

In three other cases patients were given injections of diamorphine by Dr Shipman, even though he had written no prescription for them, said Mr Henriques.

He said the cases, between December 1990 and July last year, showed the doctor had diamorphine available to him at the time he was alleged to have committed the murders in Hyde, Greater Manchester.

Dr Shipman, 53, of Roe Cross Green, Mottram, near Hyde, denies killing the women and forging a will worth £386,000 a few weeks before one of them died.

The Crown says he murdered them with injections of morphine or diamorphine either for financial reasons or simply for "enjoyment".

Mr Henriques detailed the following cases:

  • Olive Heginbotham, who died on 25 February, 1993, and had 30mg of diamorphine dispensed on a prescription written by the GP the following day
  • Mary Andrew, in whose name a 30mg prescription was issued on April 8, 1993, four days after her death
  • Fanny Nichols, who had a similar prescription issued on 27 April 1993, the day after her death
  • Edna Llewellyn, who died on 4 May, 1993, and had a prescription for 30mg dispensed the following day
  • Mary Mullen, who had a prescription for the same amount dispensed three days after her death on 4 May, 1993.

The prescription detailed by Mr Henriques numbers more than 15,000mg of diamorphine. The jury has been told a 30 mg dose of the drug can be fatal.

In 12 of the cases mentioned the patients involved received none of the drugs at all.

A nurse, Marion Gilchrist, told the jury she visited the house of one of the patients, John Henshall, two months before his death in September last year.

Mrs Gilchrist said she had been puzzled by the patient's drug records and had been unable to balance the entries for the amount of drugs prescribed for the amount in the house.

'Never given the drug'

She said: "Dr Shipman tried to explain why it was and I still couldn't understand.

"He said he had borrowed 100mg of diamorphine from a friend and he had had to take 100mg to return it."

Another patient Lilyan Ibbotson, who was recorded as having been prescribed 30mg of diamorphine by Shipman in February, 1993, said he had never given her the drug.

The only injection she had ever had was one to relieve the pain from tennis elbow.

The trial continues.

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