The ‘original’ Harold Shipman who killed hundreds and inspired serial killer
Doctor John Bodkin Adams, known as the 'original' Harold Shipman is believed to have murdered more than 300 patients over a period of three decades.
Over 30 years, Dr Adams groomed the community in Eastbourne, UK, so much so that he got away with his horrific crimes and even managed to get himself onto many of his elderly victims' wills before they died.
But, thanks to his kind reputation, he was rumoured to be the richest doctor in England due to his huge list of clients – despite a lot of them dying under his care.
He was known as a "caring" and "kind" man and doctor but he was hiding a horrific secret – he was a monster.
Dr Adams was so rich that he had a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce and had supplies of his favourite luxury violet cream chocolates hand delivered from London’s Charbonnel and Walker.
It is believed he killed his rich elderly patients with lethal injections of morphine and heroin.
Tragically, in one decade alone, until 1956, it is recorded that 160 of his loyal patients died in suspicious circumstances.
Out of those potential victims, 132 of them left their beloved family doctor in their will.
It's believed that Dr Adams' crimes may have inspired serial killer Harold Shipman, who was a Yorkshire GP dubbed 'Dr Death', who killed at least 250 patients, with some of their wills also befitting him.
It's rumoured he killed 249 victims but sadly, the exact number has still – to this day – not been confirmed.
However, sadly, the difference between the two killers is that Shipman was found guilty for his crimes of murder, but Adams got away with it and practised as a GP until he died in 1983.
What makes it even more disappointing that Adams got away with his crimes is that he was once questioned by the police and arrested following the death of one of his potential victims.
In 1956, Adams was arrested in 1956 following the suspicious and untimely death of one 50-year-old woman, days after she had signed a £1,000 cheque to him.
Adams was annoyingly acquitted a year later after a trial which made headline news around the world.
These days it is believed that Adams was even more murderous than the horrific Shipman.
When Adams died, he was so rich that he left an estate which was worth around £1.5million in today’s money – mostly taken from the fortunes of his unfortunate rich patients.
But how did Adams become such a pro at killing people and getting away with it?
He was born into a poor Irish family and was the son of a local Brethren preacher.
Adams moved to Eastbourne in 1922 after scraping through medical school in Belfast – and it wasn't long before he went from poor, to mega rich.
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Back then, the little south coast town had become a favourite destination for wealthy pensioners to retire and the GP set about frequenting the Grand Hotel and befriending the mayor to gain access to upper echelon’s of Eastbourne’s society.
By the late 1920s his plan had worked so well that he was living in a grand Victorian five-storey villa paid for with money borrowed from a patient.
Adams was reportedly always dressed in pricey Savile Row suits and had a very expensive taste.
The doctor went from riding a bicycle, to a motor scooter to be being chauffeur-driven around town in one of two of his expensive Rolls Royces.
He was said to be earning the equivalent of £400,000 a year.
It is thought, that despite many of his patients dying, Adams gained his reputation as one of the town’s most attentive doctors because, unlike many others, he was willing to come out to patients’ homes at any time of the day or night.
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It wasn’t long, however, before rumours began swirling around Eastbourne about why the doctor would go far and beyond the call of duty for his wealthiest patients.
Rumours also began circulating that Adams was killing them off to collect the money left to him in their wills.
One of the town's richest couples, Edith Mawhood and her husband William, recalled to the police at a later date how Adams would turn up uninvited to their 29-room mansion twice a week just "to check on our health".
Edith, who moved to the town with the money they had made in Sheffield’s cutlery manufacturing trade, also recalled other strange behaviour.
She said he would occassionally just turn up uninvited at mealtimes – leaving Edith to feel like she had to invite him to come in and join them.
He would even sometimes turn up with his mother and cousin.
Adams asked her husband William for a £2,000 loan to buy his house and even began to go to the shops in town where the Mawhoods had an account and would order things, such as a mackintosh similar to one he had seen William wearing, and charge these items to them.
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Following William's death, Judith recalled how Adams was furious to discover he wasn't in Williams' will and reportedly shouted at a mourner at the funeral.
The widow said Adams returned to her home to demand he have something of William's, pocketing a gold pencil that belonged to William. Judith said she didn't feel like she was able to stop him.
For years the rumours and speculation continued to grow, but no one in the town dared challenge him.
Author Jane Robbins, who studied hundreds of police documents about the case, said: "On one occasion he went to the solicitors and said, 'I want this lady’s will to be changed this way, can you go round to her house and she’ll do it?'
"On another, he was found sitting next to a lady who could barely write, trying to get her to sign the bottom of a document and on another, a woman found her husband in bed, dying, with Adams trying to persuade him to leave him all their joint fortune."
It wasn't until July 1956 that Adams' crimes would finally be questioned and investigated.
This was following the death of wealthy widow Gertrude 'Bobbie' Hullett died in her elegant mansion on one of the best streets in Eastbourne after Adams had spent the night by her bedside.
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It was thanks to her friend, actor Leslie Henson, who was left suspicious by the speed of Gertrude's fast decline and perpetually drugged state, coming soon after the similar death of her husband.
After the actor discovered that Gertrude had left Adams £1,000 in her will, Leslie decided to call Scotland Yard.
Following this call, detectives discovered a series of potential clues including the fact that the local coroner had received a mysterious phone call from Adams before Gertrude's death, requesting a private post-mortem.
After an investigation into her death, Adams was arrested for her murder in December 1956.
As he was read his rights, the doctor said to officers: "Murder? Murder? Can you prove it was murder? I didn’t think you could."
The stakes for the doctor were very high, if he was found guilty he would be hanged.
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Adams famously never gave evidence during the trial, which was unheard of in courtrooms at the time, and it was something that fuelled even more suspicion.
Detectives were lacking evidence, as most of the suspected victims had long been cremated.
They had to rely on just one case, the death of Edith Morel, who had left Adams a Rolls Royce in her will.
At his trial it was insisted by his defence he had merely been easing the pain of a seriously ill woman, as "any doctor would do".
After the British Medical Association, who didn’t want a scandal surrounding the newly-formed NHS, instructed its doctors not to help detectives, the case collapsed and the jury acquitted the GP in less than an hour.
Adams declared himself vindicated and even managed to start up in practice in Eastbourne again, getting back his licence just three years after being struck off.
But the rumours he was a serial killer never went away, and Adams spent the rest of his life barricaded behind closed doors, the victim of death threats, dying in 1983, aged 84.
Fifteen years later, the world was shocked by the news that another doctor had used his position of trust to murder hundreds of patients.
This time, he wouldn’t get away with it.
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