Britain has suffered its fair share of serial killers - from the twisted doctor Harold Shipman, who is estimated to have killed up to 250 patients, to the chilling moors murders committed in the 1960s. Some of these mortifying murders led to sweeping reforms in a bid to prevent crimes of a similar nature happening again in the UK.
The overhaul of protection procedures in the wake of the Soham murders was estimated to have reached £185 million, while the abduction and murder of schoolgirl Sarah Payne led to a high-profile campaign for people to get access to the Sex Offenders’ Register.
Here are 10 cases which shocked the country and led to change.
1. 10 murder cases that shocked the country.
10 murder cases that shocked the country
2. Harold Shipman
The UK’s most prolific convicted serial killer is Harold Shipman. He was jailed for life in January 2000 for murdering 15 patients while working in Hyde, Greater Manchester, though official predictions are that he killed between 215 and 260 people over a 23-year period in Hyde and Todmorden, West Yorkshire. In 1998, the doctor was arrested and charged with the murder of 81-year-old Kathleen Grundy after forging her will. Suspicions had been raised previously by another GP about the high death rate among Shipman’s patients. The full extent of his murderous career only became clear during Dame Janet Smith’s independent inquiry, which found that the GP probably killed up to 260 people.
The inquiry made a number of recommendations in relation to the way doctors are overseen. Shipman murdered his victims with injections of diamorphine – the clinical name for heroin – after stockpiling vast amounts of the drug by falsely prescribing it as a painkiller for dying patients. The GP would usually call on his mainly elderly victims at their homes, often on a pretext, and dispense the deadly injections. Back at his surgery, he would falsify computer records to create bogus symptoms that would explain his victims’ deaths.
Shipman killed himself in prison in 2004 at the age of 57. Photo: Greater Manchester Police
3. Dennis Nilsen
One of the UK’s most prolific serial killers, Dennis Nilsen carried out a murder spree during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He is believed to have killed as many as 15 people, many of them homeless young gay men.
Nilsen would befriend his subjects in pubs and bars in London before luring them into his flat, where he would kill them and sit with their corpses before dismembering them. His crimes were discovered when a drain outside his home on Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill, became blocked by human remains that he had tried to flush away.
He was jailed for life in 1983, with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of 25 years, for six counts of murder and two of attempted murder. His sentence was later converted to a whole life tariff.
Nilsen, who became known as the Muswell Hill murderer, was born in Fraserburgh, Scotland, and died in 2018 at HMP Full Sutton.
4. The moors murders
Myra Hindley and Ian Brady kidnapped, tortured and murdered children in and around Manchester, England, between July 1963 and October 1965.
They buried the bodies of the children on bleak Saddleworth Moor in the south Pennines in the 1960s.
Together, the pair killed five children, Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans all aged between 10 and 17. Four of them were said to have been sexually assaulted. The bodies of two victims were discovered in 1965 in graves dug on the moor, and a third was found in 1987. Keith Bennett’s body is thought to be buried there but it remains undiscovered. Brady who refused to reveal where Keith Bennett’s body was buried, died in 2017 aged 79, while Hindley, who was the first woman to be given a whole life tariff, died in prison in 2002 at the age of 60.