Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Relatives Question How Physician Got Away with Murders Once-Beloved Doctor Had Long Waiting List

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Relatives Question How Physician Got Away with Murders Once-Beloved Doctor Had Long Waiting List

Article excerpt

HYDE, England -- Bertha Moss couldn't say enough good things about her doctor. Neither could her family, even after the 68-year-old widow died suddenly -- and unexpectedly -- during a routine visit to Harold Shipman's office.

Her seven children even added a line to their mother's death notice, reading, "Special thanks to the family doctor for his care and attention."

Now, Moss' children cringe at the memory, as they -- and hundreds of other families in this small town near Manchester -- confront the horrifying possibility that Shipman systematically killed hundreds of his patients throughout his 24-year medical career.

Shipman is already serving 15 life sentences, convicted in February of killing 15 former patients by administering lethal doses of heroin.

A government audit of Shipman's practice, released Friday, suggested that the father of four may have killed as many as 300 patients. For the children of Bertha Moss, the possibility that their mother was a victim of the notorious serial killer fills them with rage.

"When she first died, I consoled myself that she had gone quickly and painlessly and in the company of someone she greatly admired," said Moss's daughter, Helen Blackwell, shaking her head in disgust.

RESPECTED PHYSICIAN

Until his 1998 arrest, Shipman was an esteemed figure in this community of 22,000 people. His one-man practice, located prominently on Hyde's main street, boasted a huge waiting list.

"He always had time for you," said Sal Freeman, who was one of Shipman's patients, and whose mother's death is listed as suspicious.

"If you had an appointment with him, you were always kept waiting. But it was OK, because you knew that when it was your turn, he'd spend extra time with you."

Now all traces of Shipman's connection to his former practice on Market Street have been scrubbed away. The building has no marker of any kind, nothing to indicate that it is still a working medical practice. The doctor selected to replace Shipman is planning to move to a new site.

While Shipman languishes in jail with no possibility of release, the relatives of his suspected victims -- those not among the 15 he was convicted of killing -- are fighting for some sense of closure and peace.

"It is a funny thing," Blackwell said, surrounded at home by three sisters. "We know what he's done, but we also want everybody else to know. You feel you at least deserve that."

An inquest into Moss' 1995 death is scheduled for Feb. 8. But inquests are restricted to determining the cause of death, not to fixing blame.

Prosecutors have essentially ruled out bringing Shipman back to court on further murder charges, saying his notoriety would make a fair trial impossible.

"Once you've been told that there will be no trial for you, what else can you do? …

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