'Bad weather' let Shipman off hook - inquiry

THE original, failed police investigation blamed bad weather for Dr Harold Shipman's high death rate among patients.

THE original, failed police investigation blamed bad weather for Dr Harold Shipman's high death rate among patients.

Day 50 of the Shipman Inquiry heard evidence from Dr Susan Booth, a colleague of the late Dr Linda Reynolds at Hyde's Brooke Surgery.

Dr Reynolds had alerted the police and coroner John Pollard to Shipman in March 1998, six months before the killer GP was finally arrested.

But Det Insp David Smith's original four week investigation found nothing wrong with Shipman's neighbouring Market Street practice. Instead, his high patient death rate was partly put down to 'a recent spell of very bad weather'.

"Dr Shipman's list size was larger, he had an elderly population, kept people at home rather than send them into hospital and there had been a recent spell of very bad weather where a lot of people had died from - old people had died, presumably from chest infections and pneumonias," Dr Booth said were DI Smith's reasons for halting the investigation.

Dr Booth added that Dr Reynolds, who died shortly after Shipman's conviction in January 2000, felt unsatisfied with the police inquiry conclusion.

"She did not feel that she had a satisfactory explanation of the higher rates, and the concentrating on the motive was not the reason she'd asked for the investigation, it was more the high numbers of patients," Dr Booth added.

The inquiry also heard the bodies of Shipman patients Lily Higgins and Ada Warburton were available for inspection at Masseys Funeral Directors in Hyde, at the time of the police investigation and that Dr Reynolds believed a Home Office Pathologist was due to carry out a post mortem.

Dr Booth - who has since retired - also spoke of how she was first alerted to worries about Shipman's conduct when she spoke with undertaker Deborah Massey (now Deborah Bambroffe) at Massey's Funeral Directors.

"I think when I went to fill in the part C (of a cremation form), Miss Massey said there was something she wanted to discuss with me and she told me about her worries about the deaths of Dr Shipman's patients, how they were find a house when they went to collect the bodies," Dr Booth told the inquiry.

"A lot of the patients were elderly - female patients, not necessarily lying in bed looking as though they had been ill, but sat upright in a chair with their clothes on with no obvious medications lying around that if somebody had been ill for a while, there usually would be."

Dr Booth added: "She (Deborah Massey) was very clear in what she was saying. She was worried that - I think she was worried that she would not be taken seriously but she felt she needed to discuss it with one of the doctors."

 

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