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Antrim's notorious 'Doctor Death' case to get the Making A Murderer treatment as BBC uncovers secret police files

By Claire Cromie

Published 19/02/2016

Dr John Bodkin Adams
Dr John Bodkin Adams

Long before the world knew about Harold Shipman, there was another "Doctor Death" - Dr John Bodkin Adams.

The eccentric Ulster-born doctor is reputed to be one of the UK's most prolific serial killers.

The Belfast Telegraph front page on 18 March 1957, the day Dr John Bodkin Adams' trial opened at the Old Bailey.
The Belfast Telegraph front page on 18 March 1957, the day Dr John Bodkin Adams' trial opened at the Old Bailey.
Belfast Telegraph coverage of Dr John Bodkin Adams' trial in 1957

Many people may not have heard of him, but in 1957 he was headline news across the world - accused of killing off hundreds of wealthy patients.

And while was never convicted of murder, it was believed the family doctor went on a killing spree that spanned decades and involved 300 suspicious cases.

He died in 1983.

Now a BBC Radio Ulster documentary has been granted access to the controversial police files which were meant to be locked out of sight until 2033.

Can You Prove It Was Murder? will be presented by actor and former lawyer Tim McGarry.

Speaking today on Radio Foyle, he said: "Dr Adams became the wealthiest GP in Britain and was well known for having a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce and then rumours started as to how he acquired this wealth.

"The rumours basically said that Dr John Bodkin Adams was going around soliciting old ladies, getting them to change his wills in his favour and then these little old ladies would die.

"At one stage there was a press frenzy when the police got involved, the police said up to 160 wills were being investigated. Then they said there were perhaps up to 400 people had been killed by Dr John Bodkin Adams."

Mr McGarry added: "It was a massive case when it eventually reached trial. It knocked the Suez crisis off the front pages."

The gripping true crime case is worth revisiting, he believes, at a time when armchair sleuths are hooked on the Netflix show Making A Murderer.

Born in Randalstown, Dr Adams studied at Queen's University before moving to Eastbourne on England's south coast. The seaside town is often referred to as 'God's Waiting Room' because of the large proportion of elderly citizens.

In 1957 he was tried at the Old Bailey for the murder of 81-year-old Edith Alice Morell, but was acquitted.

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

Can You Prove It Was Murder? will be aired on BBC Radio Ulster on Sunday, February 21 at 12.30pm.

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