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Dr. Harold Shipman and other murdering medics

Updated on July 31, 2012
Dr Harold Shipman
Dr Harold Shipman

Medics who murder

In this article you will read about some of the most prolific serial killers, all of whom were either doctors or medical staff.

Since the Greeks, the Hippocratic oath has been an oath sworn by doctors in which they promise to practise medicine ethically. An extract from, the original oath

“I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgement and never do harm to anyone. I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan”.

Why then are there so many instances of Doctors and Nurses who were killers and serial killers? Meet some of them in this article.


Dr Harold Shipman started his career as a General Practitioner within the National Health Service aged 28yrs in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. Before he had completed his first year of practice he was receiving treatment for pethidine addiction after he had been found forging prescriptions for his own use.

Shipman moved to Hyde in Cheshire and began to work in surgeries around the area, In 1993 he opened his own surgery in Hyde and was a popular local doctor.

By 1998 the local undertaker became suspicious of the large number of Dr Shipman’s patients’ that were dying, and the fact that they had all expressed a wish to be cremated. The undertaker Miss Massey thought that Shipman might be responsible for their deaths but malpractice rather than murder being the tool. The police decided that the case required No further action on 17th April 1998.

Shipman was re arrested on 7th September 1998 after killing another 3 people. His last victim was Kathleen Grundy a former mayor of Hyde. Shipman was the last person to see her alive and recorded her death as old age. Mrs Grundy’s daughter opened her mothers will and found that she had left her £386,000 estate to Dr Shipman. It is this information that precipitated the second involvement of the police.

Police investigated 16 deaths where Shipman had signed the death certificates and found a trail of forged medical notes and diamorphine usage. Shipman was sent to trial on the deaths of 16 women. Entering a “not guilty” plea to all counts the trial lasted from 05/10/1999 until 31/1/2000, when the jury found Shipman guilty on all counts and he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he should never be released. There is No death penalty in the United Kingdom.

Investigations indicated that a total of 459 people under his care died but the Shipman inquiry indicated that there was evidence to link him to about 250 deaths.

Rather than face a life in jail, Harold Shipman hanged himself in his cell on 13th January 2004.

Beverley Allitt
Beverley Allitt

Beverley Allitt

Beverly Allitt was a nurse, she worked in Granthan and Kesteven Hospital in Lincolnshire. No one at the hospital realised that she was an attention seeker who self harmed and kept changing her general practitioner so that her behaviours would not be noticed, or if they were ,not documented owing to the delay in the catch up of medical records.

Allitt’s reign of terror was short 21/2/1991 to 22/4/1991 but during that time she contributed to the deaths of 13 babies and young children. Despite patients making remarkable recoveries when transferred to other hospitals, Allitt was never questioned about how she had nursed each patient. Her main method of murder was to inject each patient with potassium chloride to cause cardiac arrest or with insulin to cause hypoglycaemia. . It was the death of Clare Peck that aroused the suspicions of colleagues. Clare was admitted to the ward with a suspected asthma attack. Clare was put on a ventilator and left with Allitt to nurse her. Within a short time Clare had a cardiac arrest, she was resuscitated and then left alone with Allitt again. Clare had a further cardiac arrest and died. Authorities became concerned about the number of deaths on the ward in such a short period and the police were called in. Investigators found that Allitt was the only member of staff involved with the care of all of the patients. Allitt was arrested in November 1991 and went on trial on 15th

February 1993 for four counts of murder, and further counts of attempted murder and grievous bodily harm with intent. and found guilty by jury on 23 May 1993, being sentenced to 13 concurrent life sentences with a recommendation from the judge that she serve at least 40 years, this was cut on appeal to 30years. Allitt is currently serving her sentence at Rampton secure hospital. Allitt never gave any explanation as to why she killed and tried to kill the children in her care.

The Lainz hospital where the deaths took place
The Lainz hospital where the deaths took place

Waltraud Wagner – The Lainz angels of death.

Beautiful Vienna contained the Lainz General Hospital where many of its patients were elderly and some suffering from terminal illnesses. Owing to this the hospital had a higher than average death rate, just the setting for a murderer to do his job undetected. What made this so unbelievable that there was not one murderer operating there, but a gang of four, who between 1983 and 1989 were responsible by their own admission for over 40 deaths.

Led by Waltrud Wagner the gang consisted of young women Maria Gruber and Berne Leidolf and a grandmother Stephanja Mayer. In the beginning Wagner was asked by an elderly lady to end her pain and suffering which Wagner did by giving her an overdose of morphine. She found that she enjoyed having power over life and death. She was responsible for recruiting the others and when on the night shift they planned who their next targets would be. Methods of killing were either by drug therapy or were a barbaric practice named as oral hygiene treatment. One of the nurses would hold the patient down whilst the other nurse poured water down their throat until they drowned, enduring an agonising death. On examination after death the method of killing was not detectable as although there was fluid on the lungs this is a condition that many of the elderly patients already suffered from.

Initially the gang concentrated on mercy killings, euthanasia as they saw it, to reduce the misery of the individual patients. As the killings became more frequent the sense of power became greater and they started to kill anyone they wanted to. ... perhaps a patient who had messed the bed, or been calling out in the middle of the night annoying the "angels".

It was this power trip that was the end for them. The women were caught when the went out drinking and were boasting to each other about what they did and how successful they were. They were overheard by a doctor who went to the police and they were subsequently arrested.

The women confessed to 49 murders with Wagner taking responsibility for 39 of them. Informal estimates amongst the gang were of 200 but at the trial Wagner insisted that she was responsible for 10 and that they were all mercy killings.

The gang were found guilty on 28 March 1991 after a month long trial. Wagner was convicted of 15 murders,17 counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault. She received a life sentence. Leidolf was convicted of five murders, receiving a life sentence. Gurber and Mayer were both jailed for 15 years for manslaughter and attempted murder.

The state attorney (prosecutor) said

“It’s a small step from killing of insolent, burdensome, patients, and from there to that which was known under the third reich as euthanasia. It is a door that must never be opened again”.

All these women have been released on parole and provided with new identities by the government.

Richard Angelo

Richard Angleo had a short reign of terror 16 September – 11 October 1987 but in that time at least four patients died.

Richard Angelo was a night shift Supervisor at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Long Island in New York. He worked in the intensive care unit with patients who were already very sick. Most of his patients were old and frail and had heart or breathing problems. Sudden deaths were not unexpected.

On 11th October, two patients died, and another feeling very ill managed to push the assistance button and got attention from a different nurse. He told the nurse that Richard Angelo had given him an injection telling him “I’m going to make you feel better”. Noting that there was nothing written on his medical charts the nurse took a urine sample and had it anlaysed. The urine contained Pavulon and Anectine drugs which had not been prescribed to the patient. These drugs caused numbness and breathing difficulties making communication with nurses impossible in most cases.

The nurse immediately reported the issue to the authorities who brought the police in. When they examined his locker they found a hypodermic syringe containing traces of Pavulon. Angelo was out of town attending a medical conference which gave the authorities plenty of time to investigate.

Records showed that there had been 37 emergencies during the six week period whilst Angelo was on duty and that as a result 25 patients had died. An excessive amount when compared to other periods and other shifts.

Psychaiatrists said that Angelos motivation was that he needed to be seen as a hero which was why he worked in an intensive care unit. In his taped confession, he said that his plan was to bring people as close to death as possible and then save their lives so that he would be greeted as a hero by his colleagues and by friends and family of the patient. Sometimes he misjudged the dose needed and they died, but this did not stop him.

Angelo was convicted of two counts of depraved indifference murder, one count of second-degree manslaughter, one count of criminally negligent homicide and six counts of assault. He was sentenced to 61years to life imprisonment.

Gerene Jones

Gerene Jones was a nurse in a paediatric intensive care unit at the Bexar County Medical Center Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

Between May 1981 and December 1981 the death rate on the unit rose at an alarming rate. Twenty children died of cardiac arrests or of bleeding that staff just could not control. All these children were nursed by Gerene Jones who worked the evening shift from 3pm to 11pm. She joked with her colleagues that if the deaths did not stop she would be called the “Death nurse”.

An inquiry was instigated by the hospital into the amount of deaths. The panel was made up of doctors from the USA and Canada. All staff on the unit were interviewed. A colleague of Jones told the doctors that she suspected Jones of murdering the patients. This was met with surprise by the doctors and by the hospital authorities. The hospital kept the results of the enquiry private, motivated by the threat of possible lawsuits if parents found hat their children had died needlessly. Deciding to remove the problem from their hospital they persuaded both Jones and the colleague who had reported her, to resign! The true extent of Jones involvement will never be known as the hospital authorities destroyed their records to avoid the aforementioned litigation!

In August 1992 Jones got a job with the paediatric clinic in Kerrville, Texas. Several children under her care became very ill with breathing difficulties, but recovered and Jones attracted no attention from other medical staff. On 17th September 1982 a 14 month old baby, Chelsea McClellan was brought into the unit to have a measles and mumps injection. Jones inoculated the child, who immediately had a seizure and died of a cardiac arrest on her way to the peadeatric intensive care unit at San Antonio. Shortly after this several other children on the unit became ill, although they all recovered. The Doctor in charge of the unit sacked Jones and reported her to the authorities who convened a grand jury on 12/10/1982. A further grand jury was convened in Febuary 1983 to look into 47 suspicious deaths at the Bexar County Medical Center Hospital. The jury returned indictments against Jones in May and she was arrested and charged with murder after succinylcholine was found in Chelsea McClellan’s corpse.

Jones was found guilty of murdering Chelsea McClellan on 15 Febuary 1984 and was sentenced to 99 years imprisonment. A second trial in October 1984 saw Jones receive a further concurrent sentence of 60 years for administering drugs to a child.

Amazingly Gerene Jones will be eligible for automatic parole in 2017. This is because of a law in the state which allows prisoners to serve only one third of their sentences as a way of dealing with over crowding. She has applied for voluntary parole several times but each time has been turned down.


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