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Doctor Death Harold Shipman was able to kill three more patients because of police blunders, according to the detective who snared him.
Botched early investigations allowed Britain’s most prolific serial killer to continue his murder spree even after detectives probed a spate of deaths, says senior detective Bernard Postles.
Police insisted there was “no case to answer” in March 1998 after investigating the deaths of 21 of Shipman’s patients. But Mr Postles claims that when he later looked into the case, he was stunned to discover basic checks hadn’t been done.
He said: “When I got going with the main investigation I asked for the paperwork in relation to it. I wanted to see what the paperwork said. And there wasn’t any. It’s true to say that investigation had not been thorough and needed to be conducted again.
“So I went back to those deaths as well to have a look at them.”
Mr Postles says he soon spotted details that suggested the deaths were suspicious.
Speaking on a new crime series for the BBC, he added: “As we started to investigate them it was apparent that things weren’t right.
“There were a lot of occasions where Dr Shipman had been present or just left the house where somebody was found, they were found in unusual circumstances, they hadn’t been suffering from long-term illnesses, they were found in the middle of the day, they were fully dressed.
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“They were really strange. As a consequence of that we started looking at them in more detail.”
Mr Postles says that in the time it took for Greater Manchester Police to take action and find enough evidence to charge Shipman, he killed three more of his patients.
Mr Postles and his colleagues were stunned when they realised the GP had abused his trusted position to commit murder in plain sight.
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He said: “We sat in the office challenging each other on what the alternative explanation was and we couldn’t come up with one because we had a lot of evidence that Harold Shipman had murdered his patients. It was overwhelming in many cases.”
Within weeks of Shipman being charged for murder it became clear there were many more victims.
Mr Postles said: “It escalated quickly because the public started to ring in because they were recognising similar stories with one of their relatives.
“Within the matter of a couple of weeks we were investigating 60-plus deaths and that continued to escalate. So it was only a few weeks later that we were on over 100 deaths that we were investigating and that was a mammoth task.”
Shipman was jailed in January 2000 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Four years later he committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell.
A public inquiry found that he killed at least 250 of his patients over 23 years.
The Shipman Files: A Very British Crime Story starts tomorrow at 9pm on BBC Two.
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