Why locals STILL see serial killer Harold Shipman as a great family GP – despite murdering 265 people

Patients were so fond of him they would bring him gifts back from their holidays abroad.

And when they found out that their beloved Dr Harold Shipman was Britain’s worst serial killer, responsible for the murders of 265 patients — they kept on singing his praises.

Incredulous former detective constable Dave O’Brien, who was on the team that brought the fiend to justice, told The Sun: “Older people in the community still love him. They still think the world of him.

“The fact that he murdered people just seems to go over their heads.”

By the time he started killing in Todmorden, West Yorks, in March 1975, Shipman already had a raging drug addiction.

The Sun can reveal that he was sometimes so desperate for a high he would inject his own penis with a form of heroin.

But soon his overriding craving was for cold-blooded murder.

He systematically groomed the community, winning its trust, to get away with killing his prey — often elderly and vulnerable patients — with lethal injections.

Now, 20 years since his arrest, the police investigators who brought down “Dr Death” have spoken out for the first time.

In a new documentary screening on Thursday, Dave O’Brien, now 77, recalls: “I had never worked on anything like that before in my life.

“I had worked on lots and lots of murders but nothing like Shipman had ever happened. It was massive.

“People in the community didn’t believe it.

“They thought we’d got it all wrong and that there would be an explanation somewhere along the line.

“They thought the world of him, that he was God’s gift.

“He obviously thought he was invincible.

“He was an arrogant bastard without a doubt.

“People to this day still think that he was the best doctor ever.”

And talking to The Sun ahead of the documentary, Dave, of Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, added: “When all the evidence started coming out people refused to believe it and even when he was convicted people would still fight his corner.

“We were incredulous, the team and I.

“He was in prison and people were still singing his praises. I thought, ‘How stupid can you be?’

“When people start talking like that I just have to walk away.”

Shipman was arrested in September 1998 aged 52, and in January 2000 was convicted of the murder of 15 elderly patients and sentenced to 15 life sentences.

But a public inquiry launched a year later found that the former family doctor killed up to 265 patients over 23 years.

In January 2004 aged 57, Shipman hanged himself in prison.

But shockingly there had been a chance to strike him off the medical register back in 1975, the year of his first murder, of former cotton weaver Eva Lyons, on the eve of her 71st birthday.

That was the year he was busted for writing out fake prescriptions to fuel his addiction to opiates.

He was persuasive and manipulative

Retired West Yorkshire detective George McKeating told The Sun: “I was in the drug squad in 1975 and part of my brief there was to look after the discipline of people in the medical profession — chemists and doctors et cetera.

“Shipman was picking up prescriptions for pethidine, a synthetic morphine. The main use of it these days is for pregnant women who are in severe pain.”

George discovered the GP had been collecting prescriptions for the heroin-like drug from all the chemists in town.

He continued: “The patients weren’t getting injections for pethidine — they didn’t even know what it was.”

Then, just as the policemen were about to arrest the doctor, they discovered he had checked himself into rehab in York.

George, of Wakefield, West Yorks, recalled: “He’d sussed we were on to him. I’m sure of that. He thought because he was in rehab we couldn’t do anything.

“He thought he was smarter than us.

“That we were only policeman, only plods. ‘I can outsmart you’. That’s what he was thinking.”

George visited him in rehab, expecting that the GP would not talk — but was amazed when Shipman candidly admitted the extent of his drug problem.

He thought he was smarter than cops

The former cop explained: “He had a huge ego and got more confident and cocky the more we talked to him. I let him rave on.

“He admitted the drugs were for his own use and made up some feeble excuse about being overworked. He had track marks up his arms.

“He said he tried morphine but he didn’t like it.

“Pethidine is a synthetic opiate. It’s a strange thing. I got it once myself when I got my tonsils out aged 35.

“It’s a good painkiller. I just floated away in a cloud for half a day. So I know what it’s like.

“He was doing this stuff on a daily basis. So much so that the veins on his arms were collapsing and he had to find another place to inject — so he injected it into his penis.

“It makes my eyes water just thinking about it.”

In February 1976 Shipman was convicted of obtaining pethidine by forgery and deception to supply but got away with a slap on the wrist and fine from the court.

However, he still had to appear before the General Medical Council (GMC), the regulatory body for doctors.

George, who had dealt with drug-addicted docs before, was convinced he would be struck off and banned from medicine.

But the retiree said: “The chairman decided he wasn’t a danger to the public and didn’t strike him off.

“I was gobsmacked. How could a junkie deal with patients properly?

“He wasn’t fit to practise. If I asked you whether you’d be happy to be treated by a doctor who was a heroin addict you’d say definitely not. Pethidine is the same as heroin.”

'He was like a friend'

He repaid her with a lethal injection.

She was a fit, active and happy 73-year-old, who had only called him for that final fatal home visit to treat a case of shingles.

Daughter Jean told The Sun: “My mum thought he was wonderful. She said he was very personable and would go round to see people in person, especially the old people.

“She could always get an appointment.

“Just to illustrate it she came over to France with me on holiday and she took him a bottle of wine back. She almost considered him a friend.”

Yet when her mother suddenly died in February 1998, Jean, 65 – who asked us not to use her surname – was immediately suspicious.

She said: “I knew he hadn’t treated her properly right away. She was really healthy.”

Months later, Shipman was arrested.

Jean said: “It seemed unreal. It still does sometimes. I thought, ‘What a waste’.

“She was seven years younger than my dad and she looked after him for a long time, so her life was very restricted.

“After he died she missed him terribly but she did have the chance to do other things.

“Her life had just opened up and she had it taken away from her.”

Shipman was soon back in business, moving wife Primrose and their four children to Hyde, Greater Manchester, where he went on killing for two decades.

George believes Shipman conned the GMC just like he conned the communities he worked in.

He explained: “He was careful about what he said. He was a good speaker, persuasive and manipulative.

“The community thought the world of him. People thought he was great because he’d turn up at 10pm and sit down and have a cup of tea with them.

“That was part of his tactic. His way of grooming people.”

George was 34 when he first encountered Shipman.

Now he is 77 and still thinks about it.

He admitted: “I don’t think justice was really done. It never should have got to that stage.

“I feel disappointed and angry because I think if he’d have been struck off at the time things would have been different.”

  • Harold Shipman: Doctor Death, Thursday, ITV, 9pm.

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