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Disgraced GP may face further probe

Police will consult with lawyers to decide if there are any new grounds to reopen the investigation into disgraced former GP Howard Martin, it has been confirmed.

Martin was struck off for giving vulnerable elderly people excessively high doses of morphine. He has also reportedly admitted hastening the deaths of patients in his care.

Durham Constabulary said: "A decision will have to be made on whether there are any new grounds to reopen the investigation".

Martin was cleared of murdering three patients but he could face prosecution again after the law was changed.

A legal principle which prevents people being tried for the same crime twice, "double jeopardy", has been scrapped in England and Wales. A decision on whether or not to prosecute may be some way off, as the police will have to trawl through all the considerable case notes and speak to the relatives of those who died.

Euthanasia remains illegal, but public opinion remains divided on the controversial issue. Some relatives called for police to reinvestigate the case. However, one elderly widower called Martin an "angel of mercy".

The former GP, of Penmaenmawr, Gwynedd, said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph that he gave fatal doses of painkillers to terminally ill patients in a bid to limit their suffering. He told the paper: "I twice helped people die, not because they wanted to die but because they had such dreadful suffering. Everyone else wanted to (die) - they could make that choice."

Durham Constabulary said: "A decision will have to be made on whether there are any new grounds to reopen the investigation and any such decision will be taken following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service."

Instead of being a second Harold Shipman, Martin said he was motivated by "Christian compassion" and acted in the best interests of his patients. He said: "I just promised people that they could die free from pain and with dignity. Most times patients and relatives were of an accord and wanted the patient to be free from pain and have dignity. In that scenario I would take control by keeping people asleep until they had passed over."

On Friday, the General Medical Council struck him off for his "deliberate course of conduct" towards 18 elderly vulnerable patients who died shortly after he gave them excessively high doses of morphine. The hearing concerned the deaths of the patients between 1994 and 2004.

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