In the Media

Bungling Shipman detective to face no action

PUBLISHED June 9, 2006

A DETECTIVE whose errors allowed GP Harold Shipman to murder his last three victims will face no disciplinary action, despite a damning report highlighting his failures and accusing him of lying to cover his errors.

Det Insp David Smith, 49, from Greater Manchester Police, will keep his ?45,000-a-year job and pension and will be back investigating crimes for the force.

He has spent the last three years suspended on full pay, but yesterday the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said that despite evidence questioning the "honesty, integrity and performance" of the officer, it will not order his force to discipline him as it is "highly unlikely to prove the breaches of conduct".
The IPCC decision means Mr Smith has effectively walked away scot free after the Crown Prosecution Service decided in March it would not prosecute the officer in the courts.

Peter Wagstaff, whose mother Kathleen was murdered by Shipman and who chaired a support group for relatives of the GP's victims, said: "I can't believe it. I can't find the words strong enough to express our disgust.

"Why has it taken more than six years to come to this conclusion? And how can the relatives believe in the impartiality of this decision? I find it incredible. It looks like a complete whitewash."

IPCC spokesman Naseem Malik said she accepted the decision might be "upsetting" to families of Shipman's victims.

The commission also expressed "disappointment" that some fellow police officers would "not assist" them in investigating their own colleague.

Mr Smith failed to investigate the doctor properly after concerns were first raised in March 1988 by a fellow GP in Hyde, Greater Manchester.

Shipman was only arrested six months later, by which time he had murdered Winifred Mellor and Joan Melia, both 73, and Kathleen Grundy, 81, by lethal morphine injection.

A subsequent report by Dame Janet Smith in July 2003 concluded their lives could have been saved by a "properly directed" police investigation, but the man in charge, Mr Smith, was "out of his depth".

The officer played down the seriousness of the initial allegations about Shipman, then lied to deflect criticism, Dame Janet said.

The matter was then investigated by the IPCC and referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which decided there was "insufficient evidence" to prosecute the officer.

Greater Manchester Police have apologised to the families of the victims.

Shipman was convicted in January 2000 of murdering 15 of his patients and jailed for life but hanged himself from his cell window at Wakefield Prison in August last year.

Dame Janet Smith concluded Shipman, 57, murdered at least 250 patients, 215 from his practice in Hyde by giving lethal morphine injections, during a killing spree lasting from 1972 to 1998.

Shipman committed his first murder while training at Pontefract General Infirmary, West Yorkshire, in April 1972, where it was estimated he killed between 10 and 15 people, before he left in 1974 to take up general practice in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, where he murdered one patient.

A statement from the IPCC issued yesterday said: "The IPCC has the power to direct the force to undertake misconduct proceedings but, having carefully considered all the evidence available and the arguments put forward by Greater Manchester Police, has agreed that a disciplinary hearing is highly unlikely to prove the breaches of conduct."

Naseem Malik added: "I must stress I am disappointed some of the key witnesses have chosen not to assist this disciplinary process but the IPCC has no powers to compel them to do so."

A Greater Manchester Police spokesman confirmed "no formal misconduct hearing" will be held in the case of Mr Smith. It is understood he will be "advised" about his conduct.

Solicitor Ann Alexander, who represented the families of more than 200 victims of Harold Shipman, said: "It is unacceptable in the extreme not only for Smith not to be prosecuted by the CPS, but also for disciplinary proceedings not to be brought against him.

"The fact that he is now allowed to return to work, having been suspended on full pay for nearly three years, is completely unacceptable."