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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
GP blew whistle on Shipman
Harold Shipman
Harold Shipman is serving 15 life sentences
A colleague of Harold Shipman contacted the authorities after she became convinced he was killing his patients, the inquiry into the serial killer GP heard Wednesday.

Dr Linda Reynolds registered her concerns with a coroner six months before Shipman was arrested.

In that time he went on to murder three more elderly women.

Dr Reynolds' husband, Nigel, told the inquiry: "She believed he was killing his patients.

Whether he was killing them deliberately or whether he was killing them accidentally by malpractice she did not know

Nigel Reynolds

"Whether he was killing them deliberately or whether he was killing them accidentally by malpractice she did not know."

Inquiry chairman Dame Janet Smith asked Mr Reynolds if his late wife had any idea how Shipman was killing his patients.

"At that stage all she knew was the fact that he was present at the time of death," said Mr Reynolds.

"That more than anything else upset her. That seemed to her to be most wrong."

Death certificates

Dr Reynolds, 48, worked at the Brooke Surgery in Hyde, Greater Manchester, close to Shipman's surgery.

Doctors at the Brooke Surgery would sign death and cremation certificates for Shipman.

Mr Reynolds, 51, told the inquiry at Manchester Town Hall that his wife - who died from cancer in March 2000 - grew concerned about Shipman soon after moving to the area.

"Relatively early she passed comment on the fact that there seemed to be a large number of forms to be signed," he said.

Dame Janet Smith
Dame Janet Smith asked about Dr Reynolds' character
"And certainly, I think quite early on, she had a feeling that he seemed to have a high death rate compared with the one in her former practice."

Mr Reynolds said he remembered "absolutely clearly" his wife saying Shipman was killing his patients the night before she phoned the Medical Defence Union and then the coroner.

"We had a conversation the night before she made the phone call," he said. "I said: 'Do you really think he is killing his patients?' and she said 'no' to begin with and then she said 'I know he's killing his patients'."

Career risk

The inquiry heard that Dr Reynolds voiced her concerns to coroner John Pollard despite fears the move could ruin her own career if she was wrong.

Mr Reynolds added: "We discussed the fact that if it got out and she was wrong she probably would not practice again in that area. But at the end of the day when she did it she didn't have any doubts about it because it was the only course of action."

There was a feeling that what she had suggested was so monstrous that it was almost impossible for anyone to take it absolutely seriously

Nigel Reynolds

Mr Reynolds said when the first investigation was dropped his wife "felt a little foolish".

"There was a feeling that what she had suggested was so monstrous that it was almost impossible for anyone to take it absolutely seriously," he said.

"She felt she had made a fuss about nothing. She felt embarrassed. She had made a dreadful allegation and been told there were no grounds."

Mr Reynolds was asked to describe his wife's character and particularly asked if she was impetuous and often "made waves".

"Absolutely not and I'm sure that this will be backed up by anybody who you speak to.

"She was very much a conciliator who worked with people to bring them together. She was a very gentle warm person who always wanted to think the best of people."

Life sentence

As a family doctor in Hyde, Greater Manchester, Shipman murdered 15 of his women patients and is now serving a life sentence in prison.

The inquiry into the convicted serial killer has entered its second phase, with its chairwoman Dame Janet Smith allowing broadcasters access to proceedings for the first time since it began.

It is investigating why the preliminary police inquiry found insufficient evidence to proceed against the GP.

The inquiry began in June 2001 and may last up to two years.

The BBC's John Thorne
"Dr Linda Reynolds agonised about accusing a fellow doctor of professional misconduct"
See also:

12 Apr 02 | England
Shipman 'held pillow' over face
28 Mar 02 | Health
Doctors' death certificate errors
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