About The Show

Background

This is the story and juxtaposition of the two most notorious British physicians of the 20th Century, Dr Harold Shipman & Dr John Bodkin Adams. Comparing and contrasting the background, arrest, trial, legacy and psychopathology of both individuals interspersed with film footage and contemporaneous news items. 'Dial Medicine for Murder' is presented as a consultation with Dr Harry Brunjes & Dr Andrew Johns who first met as medical students at Guys Hospital followed by careers in general medicine and forensic psychiatry respectively.


Dr Harry Brünjes & Dr Andrew Johns

Dr Harry Brünjes and Dr Andrew Johns met when they were both medical students at Guy’s Hospital. Harry then spent sixteen years as a clinician before transferring effectively to the City whilst Andrew became one of the leading forensic psychiatrists in the UK and has given evidence at least 100 times in murder trials and specfically to the Harold Shipman enquiry.  

Bizarrely Harry was a junior doctor at Eastbourne Hospital when Bodkin Adams was an in patient and where he died in 1983. Bodkin Adams was also a frequent visitor to Folkington Manor in the 1950s where Harry now lives... 


“THE TWO DOCTORS PRESENTING WERE STAGE NATURALS.”

“THE SHOW WAS OF A VERY HIGH QUALITY WITH VERY KNOWLEDGEABLE SPEAKERS.”

“THE WHOLE EVENT WAS BRILLIANT.”


Insight into the Birth of the Show

from

Dr Harry Brunjes

“In 2010 I bought Folkington Manor on the South Downs fifty miles south of London not far from the English Channel.  Dr John Bodkin Adams had been a frequent visitor to the house after the Second World War. The Bodkin Adams murder trial was a sensational case at the Old Bailey in 1957. Out of curiosity I began to read the story and discussed it with Dr Andrew Johns, my close friend from medical student days at Guy’s Hospital London.  Andrew is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist and had given evidence to the Dr Harold Shipman enquiry. Shipman was a physician and serial killer who murdered over 250 patients. Andrew has given evidence in murder trials at the Old Bailey over a hundred times.  Over supper we began to compare the psychopathology of both individuals.  We jointly prepared a lecture for academic purposes to present at The Royal Society of Medicine. Over time there was a metamorphosis initially into a ‘docudrama’ and then a ‘stage piece.’  Following previews in small London venues the production transferred to The Edinburgh Festival. The London Times stated “the subject material is sensational.” Subsequently the show came to the attention of BBC, ITV, enjoyed a national tour and returned to Edinburgh.

In the production Andrew and I compare the background, arrest, trial and legacies of both doctors. We examine the victims’ stories, the odd circumstances of multiple deaths, and ask the big question: why was one convicted and the other wasn’t?  We reflect on the haunting prospect of: could it happen again? But also detail the regulatory changes that have become part of day to day clinical practice since the Shipman conviction.  We invite the audience to question us which invariably leads to an astonishing and fascinating debate. As two doctors we have been surprised by the attention we have received and certainly were not expecting to be ‘on tour’ at this stage in our careers.  To conclude if anything our set is an insight into the pathological mind and a demonstration of how both the medical and legal systems reacted and adapted to two individuals who were the greatest serial killers in Britain in the twentieth century and yet were both loved and respected family doctors.  We hope you enjoy it.”


Biogs of The Subjects

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 Harold Frederick Shipman (1946 - 2004)

Harold Shipman, a British General Practitioner, killed over 200 of his patients before being arrested in 1998.

Born in 1946, serial killer Shipman attended Leeds School of Medicine and began working as a physician in 1970.  Between then and his arrest in 1998, he killed at least 215 and possibly as many as 260 of his patients, injecting them with leathal doses of painkillers.

 Born into a working-class family, middle child Shipman, known as "Fred" was the favourite child of his domineering mother, Vera.  When his mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, he willingly oversaw her care as she declined. He was fascinated by the positive effect the administration of morphine had on her suffering, until she succumbed to the disease on June 21, 1963. Devastated by her death, he was determined to go to medical school.

Very much a loner, he met his wife, Primrose, when he was 19, and they married when she was 17 and 5 months pregnant with their first child.  

By 1974, he was a father of two and joined a medical practice in Todmorden, Yorkshire, where he initially thrived as a family practitioner, before allegedly becoming addicted to the painkiller Pethidine.  He forged prescriptions for large amounts of the drug, and he was forced to leave the practice when caught by his medical colleagues in 1975, at which time he entered a drug rehab program.

A few years later, Shipman joined Donneybrook Medical Centre in Hyde where he remained for almost two decades, deemed a hardworking doctor with only minor interest from other healthcare professionals. It was a local undertaker who noticed that Dr. Shipman's patients seemed to be dying at an unusually high rate. This led to the local coroner's office being notified, who in turn, contacted the police.

Following an investigation Shipman was cleared.  Hiding behind his status as a caring, family doctor, it's almost impossible to establish exactly when Shipman began killing his patients, or indeed how many died at his hands.  His killing spree was only brought to an end by the determination of the daughter of one of his patients.

Through new investigation and evidence found at Shipman's home, it became apparent the case ran further than one patient. After numerous exhumations and autopsies, the police charged Shipman with 15 individual counts of murder on September 7, 1998 as well as one of forgery. Shipman was found guilty on all charges on the afternoon of January 31, 2000 and the judge passed 15 life sentences, as well as four-year sentence for forgery, which he commuted to a "whole life" sentence, effectively removing any possibility of parole. Shipman was incarcerated in Durham Prison.

A clinical audit went on to estimate that he may have been responsible for deaths of at least 236 patients over a 24-year period.

On January 13, 2004, Shipman was discovered at 6am hanging in his prison cell.


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John Bodkin Adams (1899 - 1983)

Bodkin Adams was born in 1899 in Radalstown, County Antrim.  Then son of a watchmaker and local preacher, his mother was even said to be the holiest of woman in Ireland.

Adams studied medicine at Queen's university, Belfast where he was seen as a "plodder" and missed years of studies due to illness.  He graduated in 1921 having failed to qualify for honours.  After graduation Adam's was offered a job in Bristol; however he lacked the acumen necessary for academic medicine and after 6 months was handed an advertisement and suggested he look into it. 

Adams applied for the job as a general practitioner in a Christian practice in Eastbourne, Sussex, where he moved with his mother and cousin in 1922. Adams dealt with his lack of talent with hard work, and this helped him get a good reputation in town quickly.  

Throughout the 1920s Adam's social and financial status grew, and was soon regarded as one of the wealthiest doctors in England. By the mid 30's gossip had started with regards to his unconventional methods especially when he inherited large sums from deceased patients, a standard practice at the time and the main reason why wealthy clients were so desirable. But alarm bells rang ran when family members were cut to favour Adams.

Adam’s sister, Sarah, died in 1952 of cancer, leaving him alone in his household. He wasn’t without friends though, and one of the closest was Roland Gwynne. This friendship further fueled rumours that Adams was homosexual, as Gwynne certainly was, and was in fact being blackmailed by his butler over it. Through Gwynne, Adams received even more high profile clients, and he soon became considered one of the top GPs in the country. The frequent deaths of his elderly patients and the sizable bequests he continued to rack up were all conveniently glossed over. And then in 1956 his patient Bobbie Hullett died, and things began to unravel.

The inquest gave a conduit for the rumours which had been swirling around the doctor, and the press soon began to show an interest. Journalists discovered the 1935 case over Matilda Whitton’s will, and as a result they soon descended on Eastbourne in force. An army of journalists went over the town and dug out every story they could find about Dr.John Bodkin Adams.

The evidence also looked poor for Adams when his treatment of Hullet was reviewed, but the judge concluded that though the doctor had clearly been negligent he had not crossed the line into criminal negligence. He told the jury that the decision they had to make was between accidental overdose and suicide, and they chose suicide.

Adams was vocal in his relief after the verdict, but now that Scotland Yard had begun looking into him, they had no intention of stopping. they soon began to build up an array of cases going back as far as 1935, almost entirely consisting of wealthy widows who had rewritten their wills to favour Dr. Adams after they had come into his care, and who had died soon after. 

On Dec. 19, 1956, Adams was arrested for the murder of Edith Morrell, but when the judge summed up the case in favour of the defence, the jury acquitted Adams of murder.

Once he was allowed to practice again, he even got back more than a few of his previous clients, though Scotland Yard continued to keep an eye on him. But John led a quiet life until 1983, when he fell while shooting and broke his leg. He died from complications of the injury three days later.