Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Did Antrim's notorious 'Doctor Death' go to his grave with 300 murders on his conscience?

Dr John Bodkin Adams (84)
Dr John Bodkin Adams (84)
Dr John Bodkin Adams (84)
Dr John Bodkin Adams (84)

He was a precursor to Dr Harold Shipman – an eccentric doctor turned serial killer.

John Bodkin Adams was an Ulster-born doctor accused of killing off hundreds of wealthy patients in post-war Eastbourne.

Now a new book called The Curious Habits Of Doctor Adams casts chilling light on a man reputed to be one of the UK's most prolific serial killers.

In the 1950s Dr John Bodkin Adams – born in Randalstown, Co Antrim, in 1899 – found himself at the centre of a sensational murder inquiry dubbed "the crime of the century".

He was never convicted of murder, but it's suspected the Sussex-based GP was the precursor to notorious serial killer, Doctor Harold Shipman.

Shipman was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2000 for 15 murders, but the subsequent Shipman Inquiry concluded he had been responsible for at least 200 of his patients' deaths. He took his own life in 2004.

Adams also had an alarming influence over the lives, deaths and finances of wealthy widows.

It was believed the family doctor went on a killing spree that spanned decades and involved 300 suspicious cases.

Adams was schooled at Coleraine Academical Institution, before studying medicine at Queen's University in Belfast.

In 1922 he joined a practice of Christian GPs in the prosperous resort of Eastbourne, but it was years later, in 1956, when police began to investigate the curious medicine man.

"I am quite confident Adams is a mass murderer," said the detective in charge of the investigation.

In 1957 the Daily Mail speculated police were studying the "wills of 300 women in £1m probe", but in the end Adams was only tried for one murder, that of 81-year-old Edith Alice Morell.

The Belfast Telegraph carried coverage of the Old Bailey case, including the splash: 'Attorney general speaks of "massive dosage of drugs" to wealthy widow'.

The book, written by Jane Robins, examines Dr Adams, who was known to solicit wealthy female patients, make daily house calls, and prescribe strong drugs, often "for her nerves".

It emerged the creepy character had a habit of asking nurses to leave the room before injections were given and on one occasion he booked a post-mortem before his patient was dead.

Many patients left him gifts or legacies in their wills.

While found not guilty of murdering Morell, he was later tried for forging prescriptions, lying on cremation certificates and failing to keep proper drugs records, leading to a £2,400 fine and being struck off the medical register.

Remarkably, Adams was reinstated as a GP in 1961 and his authority to prescribe dangerous drugs was restored the following year.

Upon his death in 1983 he left a £400,000 estate.

John Bodkin Adams  – born in Randalstown, Co Antrim, in 1899 – was a GP, convicted fraudster and suspected serial killer. In 1957 the Eastbourne-based family doctor was tried at the Old Bailey for the murder of 81-year-old Edith Alice Morell, but was acquitted. He was suspected of murdering 300 of his patients. A new book by Jane Robins called The Curious Habits Of Doctor Adams examining his remarkable story has just been published.

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