FOR more than two decades, family doctor Harold Frederick Shipman waged a "shocking beyond belief" killing spree that left at least 215 patients dead.
Said to have been Britain's, if not the world's, most prolific serial killer, Shipman, who died today aged 57, may also have murdered a further 45 innocent victims.
Once described as "addicted to killing", he targeted, among his victims, unsuspecting middle-aged and elderly women patients with deadly diamorphine injections.
Shipman, who ran a one-man practice in Hyde, Greater Manchester, was given 15 life sentences at Preston Crown Court on January 31, 2000, after being found guilty at the end of a trial lasting nearly four months.
He was brought to justice after a bungled attempt to forge the £386,000 will of one of his victims, an 81-year-old former mayoress of Hyde, wealthy widow Kathleen Grundy.
Dame Janet Smith, who ran the ensuing inquiry, reported in 2002 that she believed Shipman had killed 215 patients and there was a "real suspicion" over another 45.
She later criticised two detectives who carried out a failed investigation as inexperienced and not fit for the case and called for reforms to the coroners' system.
Shipman's trial judge, Mr Justice Forbes, recommended that Shipman should spend the rest of his life behind bars for what he called his "wicked, wicked crimes".
He told him: "Each of your victims was your patient. You murdered each and every one of your victims by a calculated and cold-blooded perversion of your medical skills.
"For your own evil and wicked purposes you took advantage of them and grossly abused the trust that each of your victims placed in you."