What makes a doctor a serial killer explored at Edinburgh event

Dial Medicine For Murder, a chilling live event, will investigate the stories of two of the UKs most notorious serial killers: Doctors Harold Shipman and John Bodkin Adams.
Dial Medicine For Murder, a chilling live event, will investigate the stories of two of the UKs most notorious serial killers: Doctors Harold Shipman and John Bodkin Adams.
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The question of what makes a doctor become a serial killer will be examined in depth at the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh next week.

Dial Medicine For Murder, a chilling live event, will investigate the stories of two of the UKs most notorious serial killers: Drs Harold Shipman and John Bodkin Adams.

The show is being hosted at the newly refurbished Physicians International Conference Centre on Queen Street.

It will compare the background, arrest, trial and legacies of both the killer doctors, interspersed with footage and news items which will examine the victims’ stories and the odd circumstances of multiple deaths. The big questions will be asked: why was one convicted and the other wasn’t, and could it happen again?

This will be followed by a Q&A session.

The event is produced and hosted by Dr Harry Brunjes and Dr Andrew Johns.

Dr Johns, a forensic psychiatrist, gave evidence to the Dr Harold Shipman enquiry. On 31 January 2000, Shipman was found guilty of the murder of 15 patients under his care and sentenced to life imprisonment with the recommendation that he never be released. He later committed suicide while in prison. A separate enquiry estimated that Shipman had murdered at least 218 of his patients.

Dr John Bodkin Adams was a GP, convicted fraudster and suspected serial killer.

Between 1946 and 1956, more than 160 of his patients died in suspicious circumstances. Of these, 132 left him money or items in their wills. He was tried and acquitted for the murder of one patient in 1957.

The show, which has previously enjoyed a ten-night run at the Edinburgh Festival in 2016 and a nationwide tour in 2017, is on for one night only at the Royal College Of Physicians of Edinburgh.

Speaking ahead of the event, Dr Brujnes and Dr Johns said: “We invite the audience to question us [about Shipman and Adams] and there has been astonishing and fascinating debate on each and every occasion. We have both been surprised by the attention we have received and certainly were not expecting to be ‘on tour’ at this stage in our careers.

“If anything our set is an insight into the pathological mind and a demonstration of how both the medical and legal systems adapted over the course of the century.”

Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh president Prof Derek Bell OBE spoke about shining a light on these dark episodes in the history of medicine.

He said: “I am looking forward to what will be a highly entertaining event.

“There is a grisly fascination with serial killers, that I don’t doubt is at least partly born of fear. Beyond this fear however, is a need to understand what makes these people do what they do, and more importantly, how we as a profession can alter our methods and systems to ensure that it never happens again.

“This fascination is also not a new phenomenon, and the college’s heritage team will be displaying some real-life murder weapons on the evening. As uncomfortable as it can be, this college has always attempted to study and investigate these crimes, and I look forward to Dr Brunjes and Dr Johns carrying on that unpalatable, but necessary work at this show.”

The event will take place at 7pm on 28 February at The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. The public can book their place through Eventbrite.