Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 14:25 UK

Shipman letters sale criticised

Harold Shipman
The 65 letters, mostly handwritten, will be auctioned on 10 November

The coroner who held the inquests into the deaths of Harold Shipman's victims has condemned a decision to auction a collection of letters by the killer.

In 65 letters to two former patients and friends after his arrest in 1998, Shipman repeatedly denied his guilt.

Coroner John Pollard said the sale of the "arrogant" letters was "raking it up again" for families of his victims.

GP Shipman, from Hyde, Greater Manchester, killed up to 250 patients. Others have also criticised the sale.

Father Denis Maher, of St Paul's Church in Hyde, where some victims were churchgoers, called the auction "insensitive".

He added: "It's going to open up a lot of old wounds and put a lot of people through suffering."

Someone gaining by putting these letters up for sale I find appalling
Father Denis Maher

The correspondence, addressed to Mavis and David Stott, friends and patients of Shipman, was discovered by chance during a house clearance in 2006.

The never-before-seen letters emerged after the son of Mr and Mrs Stott found them as he cleared their homes after their deaths.

Shipman began writing to the couple shortly after his arrest in September 1998 and continued up until one month before he killed himself in Wakefield Prison in 2004.

Father Maher was also given a number of letters written by Shipman from a parishioner, which he refuses to show.

One of the letters written by Shipman from prison
The letters were written up until a month before his death in 2004

He added: "Someone gaining by putting these letters up for sale I find appalling."

The letters will be auctioned on 10 November in Knutsford, Cheshire.

Nick Hall, of Frank Marshall and Co auctioneers, believes they offer a "fascinating" glimpse into his psyche.

But Mr Pollard, coroner for south Manchester, said: "It must come again as a great sadness for the families who lost relatives to his crimes."

He told BBC News: "The tone of [the letters] is summed up as arrogance and that I think... was how he was at the time.

He was arrogant about time, he was arrogant about the investigation...he was arrogant about me
Coroner John Pollard

"He was arrogant about time, he was arrogant about the investigation, he was arrogant about the interviews which were carried out, he was arrogant about me.

"He said I was snatching my glory days. All I was doing was carrying out the legal duty that I know."

Shipman went undetected as he killed his elderly patients in and around Hyde, certifying their deaths as natural causes.

He was convicted of 15 counts of murder but an inquiry chaired by Dame Janet Smith found he killed an estimated 215 people between 1971 and 1998.

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