Harold Shipman’s Parents, Family: Meet His Wife Primrose Shipman, Kids Sam, Sarah, Christoper, and David

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Inside Harold Shipman’s family – his loyal childhood sweetheart and four children who knew nothing about his twisted dark side.

Health practitioner Harold Shipman has his name in the list of notorious serial killers in British history. He targeted old patients and made headline after he was found guilty of murdering them. He was dubbed “Dr Death” on social media.

Harold is likened to other serial killers like Ian Brady, Myra Hindley, and Lucy Letby whose crimes involved baby killings.

Letby, however, has been tagged the worst baby killer in modern British history even ahead of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.

Lucy Letby and Harold Shipman may be attracted by caring roles, per report by The Guardian.

After police intervened following a thorough investigation, Shipman was sent to prison for life for his crimes.

Aside from his crimes, he was a family man. He had a spouse and was a father of four. Read on for more about his family.

Harold Shipman is believed to have killed around 250 of his patients (Image: PA)
Harold Shipman is believed to have killed around 250 of his patients (Image: PA)

Who was Harold Shipman?

Harold Shipman (real name: Harold Frederick Shipman Jr, known to acquaintances as Fred Shipman) was an English general practitioner and serial killer. He was nicknamed Dr Death or The Angel Of Death from his crimes and his arrest.

Harold Shipman became known for being one of the most prolific serial killers in modern history, with an estimated 250 victims.

In 1974, Shipman began working as a GP but just a year later he faced being struck off by the General Medical Council after forging prescriptions of pethidine for his own use. Former detective George McKeating also claimed that ‘Dr Death’ “injected heroin into his penis” to get high.

However Shipman was simply fined £600 and had to attend a drug rehabilitation clinic in York.

He then worked as a GP in a number of surgeries in Hyde and became well respected in the community. However during this time he secretly murdered hundreds of patients.

Police eventually became suspicious after finding a forged will leaving him £386,000 of patient Kathleen Grundy’s estate.

After being jailed in 2000, he killed himself four years later in prison at the age of 59. It was reported by the Sun on Sunday that he had timed his suicide so that he would guarantee Primrose would receive a £100,000 lump sum and further £10,000 a year payments through his GP pension.

Who are Harold Shipman’s parents?

He was born on January 14, 1946 on the Bestwood Estate, a council estate in Nottingham.

His parents were Vera Brittan Shipman (mother) and Harold Frederick Shipman Sr. (father).

His dad was a lorry driver who was born on 12 May 1914 but died on 5 January 1985.

Shipman was particularly close to his mother. She was born on 23 December 1919 but died on 21 June 1963, of lung cancer when he was aged 17.

His mother’s lingering death from lung cancer in June 1963 had a profound effect on the psyche of young Harold.

Primrose Shipman continued to visit her husband in prison each week (Image: Reuters)
Primrose Shipman continued to visit her husband in prison each week (Image: Reuters)

How was Harold Shipman brought up?

Harold was brought up like a normal child in a strong Christian home. His working-class parents were devout Methodists. 

In September 1965 he enrolled at Leeds University Medical School.

When growing up, Shipman was an accomplished rugby player in youth leagues.

Shipman’s motives for murdering his patients were unclear; some speculated that Shipman may have been seeking to avenge the death of his mother, while others suggested that he thought he was practicing euthanasia, removing from the population older people who might otherwise have become a burden to the health care system.

In the later stages of his mother’s disease, she had morphine administered at home by a doctor. Shipman witnessed his mother’s pain subside, despite her terminal condition, until her death. 

Did Harold Shipman have any siblings?

The serial old women murderer was not an only child to his parents. He had two siblings whose names are Pauline Shipman and Clive Shipman.

He was the second of the three children.

Shipman family portrait taken in January 1997. Image Source: Mirrio
Harold Shipman pictured with his wife Primrose. Image Source: Mirrio

Who was Harold Shipman’s wife?

Late serial killer Harold Shipman was married to Primrose May Oxtoby ​on November 5, 1966.

The couple were ‘childhood sweethearts’ and met after had started studying at Leeds University Medical School in 1965.

They had been travelling on the same bus up to Leeds. Primrose had been working as a window dresser at a department store at the time.

It was a whirlwind romance and the pair were married, with Primrose pregnant, while Shipman was still in his first year of university.

After 30 years of marriage, Primrose Shipman’s life was turned upside down when she discovered her husban, in actuality, a serial killer.

It is believed that his family did not know about his dark side, including wife Primrose who attended all of his court dates. They were all handed new identities after his conviction.

When he was jailed, Primrose made weekly visits to him in Wakefield prison and wrote love letters to him. In one, she had demanded: “Tell me everything, no matter what.”

Shipman family portrait taken in January 1997. Image Source: Mirrio
Shipman family portrait taken in January 1997. Image Source: Mirrio

Did Harold Shipman have any children?

Harold Shipman and Primrose May Oxtoby remained married even when he was in jail until he died. The duo have four children together.

The names of his kids are Sam Shipman, Sarah Shipman, Christopher Shipman and David Shipman.

Shipman was jailed in 2000 after being found guilty of murdering 15 of his patients
Shipman was jailed in 2000 after being found guilty of murdering 15 of his patients

How was Harold Shipman caught?

Shipman was first investigated in March 1998 when Dr Linda Reynolds expressed concerns to John Pollard, the coroner for the South Manchester District, about the high death rate among Shipman’s patients.

She was concerned about the large number of cremation forms for elderly women that he had asked to have countersigned.

However, police were unable to find sufficient evidence to bring charges and closed the investigation on 17 April.

After the investigation was closed, Shipman went on to kill three more people.

A few months later, in August, taxi driver John Shaw told the police that he suspected Shipman of murdering 21 patients.

He became suspicious because multiple of the elderly customers he took to the hospital died in Shipman’s care

Shipman was found to have forged a will and patient notes before being arrested on September 7, 1998.

For more about his victims, how he carried out his murder crimes, and who he really was – click here to read more about his biogaphy.