The Shipman Files

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Sociopolitical Documentary hosted by Chris Wilson, published by BBC in 2020 - English narration

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Film-maker Chris Wilson revisits the Harold Shipman story as it developed from a local news piece to the biggest serial killer case in British History. A chilling betrayal of trust and power. The loved ones of GP serial killer Harold Shipman's victims share their stories and ask - how did he get away with it for so long? Ch1. A Good Doctor Opening in 1998, the series begins in Hyde, the small market town near Manchester that would become the setting for a murder investigation on an unprecedented scale. This episode tells the story of how the crimes of ‘respected’ GP Harold Shipman were first discovered and how he was eventually apprehended and charged with the murder of 15 of his own patients. Shipman was a popular local doctor who had been practising in Hyde for over 20 years when doubts were raised over the validity of the will left by one of his patients, Kathleen Grundy, following her death in 1998. Shipman had certified her cause of death as old age, but when the police exhumed her body, the post-mortem revealed that Mrs Grundy had in fact been killed by a fatal dose of diamorphine – pure, medical-grade heroin. That turned the case into a murder inquiry, and the victim’s GP was the prime suspect. When the police began to take a look at the deaths of several more of Shipman's recently deceased patients, the inquiry quickly snowballed into a multiple murder investigation. Shipman would eventually stand trial for the murder of 15 of his former patients from Hyde - all of them women, almost all of them elderly. Meeting victims’ close relatives and friends, former patients and the husband of another GP who spoke out against Shipman, Wilson reveals that despite compelling evidence against him, clear opportunities to catch Shipman earlier were missed. Wilson discovers how a dark chapter in the town’s past made the Shipman story even more difficult to face and explores how Shipman abused his power and status as a doctor to remain above suspicion - and even above the law. Rather than focusing on the killer, Wilson examines the lives of some of Shipman’s elderly victims, discovering that they were fit and healthy women, active members of their local community who were well loved by their families and friends. Although these women were elderly, their deaths were mostly unexpected, and yet Shipman was able to pass their deaths off as due to natural causes. The programme ends on the eve of Shipman’s trial. He was charged with 15 murders, but the police investigated over 100 other suspicious deaths, the vast majority of whom were elderly patients. Even though this was to be the biggest murder trial in British history, it was clear that the true scale of Shipman’s crimes, and a full examination of how he had evaded detection for so long, would only begin to emerge after the court case. Wilson ends with a question - could the profile of Shipman’s victims, in particular their age, be the real reason that he was able to kill so many over such a long period of time without anyone raising the alarm? Ch2. A Good Death Picking up the story as the case comes to trial, this episode examines how the true scale of Shipman’s crimes began to emerge and how his murders conformed to a chilling pattern: his victims were mostly elderly patients, the vast majority were killed in their own homes, and Shipman certified their deaths as due to natural causes. Could it be that the fear of hospitals amongst this group of patients and their families’ desire for their elderly relatives to have a ‘good death’ enabled Shipman to murder again and again in plain sight for nearly 30 years? In October 1999, Harold Shipman stood in the biggest murder trial in British history, but coverage of the trial, and in particular of Shipman’s victims, was peculiarly low key. Speaking to victims’ families, a journalist who covered the case and the victim support team leader, Chris Wilson discovers that the case had none of the usual hallmarks of a murder trial. This was a murder case in reverse – one that began with the killer and evolved around a search for his victims – and the trial retrospectively forced victims’ families to come to terms with their loved ones’ murders, years, sometimes decades, after they had believed they had died what one relative describes as a ‘millionaire’s death’. Although Shipman was convicted for 15 murders, the police investigated over 100 suspicious deaths. Wilson speaks to the family who, following the trial, led a successful campaign for a public inquiry that would examine all of Shipman’s crimes, ruling on every single death connected to Shipman throughout his time as a GP – a career that began in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, in 1974. But while Shipman’s murders had passed without question at the time, Wilson discovers that his behaviour in Todmorden had come to the attention of the authorities. He meets a former drugs squad police officer who investigated Shipman in the 70s, discovering that the GP was addicted to pethidine, obtaining large quantities of the drug by befriending his elderly patients and forging prescriptions in their names. At the time there was no suggestion of murder. But two decades later it would emerge that Shipman hadn’t just been grooming his elderly patients in Todmorden to feed his own habit - he had also used these drugs to kill some of them. Wilson meets the granddaughter of Shipman’s first victim in Todmorden, who describes in vivid detail how he killed her grandmother in her own bedroom while her grandfather made coffee in the kitchen. Ch3. A Good Innings Opens with the publication of the first report of the public inquiry into the deaths of Shipman’s patients - a report that officially concluded that, while working as a GP, Harold Shipman had murdered 260 of his patients. But how had he got away with killing on such a scale for so long? Wilson explores the reaction to the staggering total, discovering how commentators came up with a range of theories to try to understand why a seemingly ordinary doctor had killed so many people. Wilson meets a detective who led a team that questioned Shipman after his conviction about the murders he committed in Todmorden. He reveals how Shipman refused to utter a single word during several days of interrogation – a silence he maintained until he committed suicide in his prison cell, four years into multiple life sentences. After seeing reports of Shipman’s suicide, a former nurse came forward. She recognised Shipman as a doctor she had worked with as a student nurse at a hospital in Pontefract, West Yorkshire. She had always been troubled by the number of deaths on one of the wards – a ward where she now realised Shipman had worked as a junior doctor. Could he have begun killing there, even before he became a GP? Wilson tracks down a family whose elderly relative died whilst under Shipman’s care in hospital in Pontefract, as well as another doctor who worked alongside Shipman there. Piecing together their stories, Wilson reveals that not only is it clear that Shipman had begun killing before he qualified as a GP, it is also very likely that Shipman killed at least one child. The revelation that Shipman had begun killing even before he became a GP and that some of his victims were children is shocking. At the time, the coverage of these revelations differed markedly to the reporting of the deaths of hundreds of Shipman’s elderly victims in Hyde. Wilson asks if these contrasting responses can be explained by the victims’ ages and if that could explain why Shipman targeted mainly elderly patients – not because he was driven by a compulsion to kill old people, but because he knew he would be more likely to get away with it. Wilson interrogates his own preconceptions about the Shipman case - he had wrongly assumed that Hyde was a town with an above average elderly population and had pictured Shipman’s victims as frail, decrepit, housebound old ladies, when in truth they were mostly fit, active members of their community. Wilson concludes that these preconceptions run through the entire Shipman case, informing an attitude and prejudice towards the elderly that allowed a seemingly ordinary GP to get away with murdering hundreds of people, in plain sight, for nearly 30 years.

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  • Video Codec: x265 CABAC Main@L4
  • Video Bitrate: CRF 21 (~1867Kbps)
  • Video Resolution: 1920x1080
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Frame Rate: 25 FPS
  • Audio Codec: AAC-LC
  • Audio Bitrate: 128Kbps CVBR 48KHz
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Run-Time: 2h 57m (total)
  • Number Of Parts: 1 (3 chapters)
  • Part Size: 2.47 GB
  • Source: HDTV
  • Encoded by: JungleBoy

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