Dr Harold Frederick Shipman: an enigma

Crim Behav Ment Health. 2010 Jul;20(3):190-8. doi: 10.1002/cbm.768.


Dr. Shipman was the worst known serial killer in British history, at least in terms of numbers of victims, and possibly the worst in world history, if politicians are excluded. He killed at least 215 patients and may have begun his murderous career at the age of 25, within a year of finishing his medical training. His case has had a profound impact on the practice of medicine in the United Kingdom. Was he a special case? What were the origins of this behaviour? Could the behaviour have been prevented? It is necessary to learn what we can from a few personal facts and largely circumstantial evidence. He withheld himself from any useful clinical investigation or treatment once he had been taken into custody. Could he have been treated at any stage?

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • History, 20th Century
  • Homicide / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • United Kingdom

Personal name as subject

  • Harold Frederick Shipman