‘Fit’ 79-year-old dead an hour after Shipman visit

An elderly patient who was ‘‘fanatical’’ about home security was found dead at her home with both doors to her bungalow unlocked and just an hour after Dr Harold Shipman’s car was seen parked outside, the inquiry into the family doctor’s crimes heard today.

An elderly patient who was ‘‘fanatical’’ about home security was found dead at her home with both doors to her bungalow unlocked and just an hour after Dr Harold Shipman’s car was seen parked outside, the inquiry into the family doctor’s crimes heard today.

Marjorie Waller was said to be a ‘‘very fit’’ 79-year-old was found fully dressed, collapsed on her bed in April 1996.

Earlier this year, her death was among two out of 27 cases to have an open verdict recorded against it at inquest.

South Manchester coroner John Pollard recorded verdicts of unlawful killing against 25 other patients.

Despite being described as ‘‘very keen’’ and ‘‘fanatical’’ about keeping her doors and windows locked at all times, when she was found at her home in Hyde, Greater Manchester by a friend checking up on her, both her porch and her main front door were unlocked, the public inquiry heard today.

A short time earlier, a neighbour living opposite Mrs Waller had seen Dr Shipman’s car parked outside her home.

Jack Hampson told the inquiry that he had not been surprised to see the vehicle outside Mrs Waller’s home at around lunchtime on April 18 after she had complained days earlier of suffering from catarrh.

But some of Mrs Waller’s other friends, including Glyn Jones, said she had not been ill but had been suffering the after effects from a minor cold.

Mr Jones told the inquiry that he did not consider Mrs Waller to have been seriously ill when he went to visit her on the afternoon of the day she died.

Earlier that week he had been told that Mrs Waller had been ‘‘grounded’’ by Dr Shipman and told not to walk her three dogs, which she referred to as her children, because she was not well enough to leave her home.

When he arrived at her bungalow shortly after lunchtime, however, he noticed her dog leads were not hanging as usual in her porch.

After Mrs Waller then failed to answer her door, he said he was ‘‘surprised’’ to find the porch door, then the main door, both unlocked.

He made his way into the bungalow and to her bedroom, where he found her fully dressed lying on her bed.

’’I immediately thought she was dead,’’ he said. ‘‘She just looked dead.’’

But when Shipman was called to her home after she had been found dead, friends described him as making only a ‘‘cursory’’ visual examination before putting her death down to bronchopneumonia.

The news came as a ‘‘complete surprise’’ to many of the friends Mrs Waller had at various clubs and societies she was involved in.

In the weeks before her death, she had complained of a minor cold, but it had not stopped her walking her dogs, who she trained and entered in shows.

Medical evidence submitted to the inquiry suggested death from bronchopneumonia would have taken ‘‘several days’’.

The condition would have led to Mrs Waller being very short of breath, and would have been obvious even in the short phone calls she made on the morning of her death.

No such recollections were made by those who had spoken to her in the days before her death.

Professor Richard Baker, of Leicester University, said the link between Mrs Waller’s medical history and the cause of death was ‘‘weak’’.

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