Page last updated at 18:36 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 19:36 UK

Shipman letters removed from sale

Harold Shipman
Shipman killed himself in Wakefield Prison in 2004

A collection of prison letters written by notorious serial killer Harold Shipman has been withdrawn from sale following complaints.

The 65 letters, written to two friends after his arrest in 1998 up until a month before his suicide in 2004, were due to be auctioned next month.

But the sale sparked a storm of protest by some of the families of the Greater Manchester GP's many victims.

Shipman, from Hyde, is thought to have killed up to 250 of his patients.

The letters were written to Mavis and David Stott, friends and patients of Shipman.

They were due to be auctioned by Frank Marshall and Co in Knutsford, Cheshire, on 10 November.

'Historical record'

In a statement, principal auctioneer Nick Hall blamed "sensationalised" reporting of the sale for the decision to withdraw them.

"In light of the upset and general bad feeling caused by the publicity surrounding the intended sale by auction of the Harold Shipman letters, Frank Marshall and Co have been in talks with our clients Mr and Mrs Stott regarding their sale.

"Following our recommendations we would like to announce that we have withdrawn the letters from our auction and they have been returned to the owners.

I know the decision to remove the items from public auction will be widely welcomed
James Purnell
Stalybridge and Hyde MP

"It was our hope that these letters would have been viewed as important historical documents and serve as an invaluable psychological insight into the mind of a serial killer for institutions to study, and not as the sensationalised news story that has been whipped up."

Shipman began writing to Mr and Mrs Stott shortly after his arrest in September 1998 and continued to do so until a month before he killed himself in Wakefield Prison in 2004.

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

His comments were echoed by coroner John Pollard, who held the inquests into the deaths of some of Shipman's victims.

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

The decision to withdraw the letters from sale was welcomed by Stalybridge and Hyde MP James Purnell.

"The plans to auction these letters have caused a great deal of distress and prompted a strong reaction locally," he said.

"I know the decision to remove the items from public auction will be widely welcomed."

Print Sponsor

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific