You’re the Judge!: Angel of Mercy?
Posted 403 days ago
Story so far… For decades, the UK’s most successful and wealthy doctor had been receiving anonymous letters accusing him of being a killer. But was the GP really bumping off his patients..?
The Case: The rich GP and the rumours
Sorting through that day’s post, Dr John Bodkin Adams sighed.
For, among the letters and bills was a postcard.
And the message was the same as on all of the others…
For decades, the postcards had arrived regularly.
All anonymously accused the GP of ‘bumping off’ his patients.
Which was strange, considering he was the most successful doctor in the UK…
But that was strange, too.
For Dr Adams had never been a very good doctor.
Born to a devout preacher, who regularly beat him, and a domineering mother, Adams was a ‘plodder’ at medical college, and barely scraped a pass.
As a hospital anaesthetist, he’d got a reputation as a bungler, falling asleep during ops, his patients waking up or
However, becoming a GP in the rich retirement town of Eastbourne, Sussex, he’d developed a winning bedside manner with his elderly, frail – but hugely wealthy – patients.
He’d kneel at the bedside of the former MPs and admirals, wealthy widows and dukes, stroking their wrinkled hands, pinning on their brooches, helping them to dress.
And he’d soon discovered the rewards that rich patients could provide…
In 1935, he’d inherited £7,385 from one patient – the equivalent of £380,000 today.
The woman’s horrified family had fought the decision in court. They lost.
They weren’t the only family who were unhappy, though. Many families were shocked at the vast sums Dr Adams’ patients left to him on their deaths.
For, over the decades, Adams’ fortune had kept growing.
And so did the rumours…
How Adams would get his elderly patients hooked on heroin, then cut them off from their families. How he’d offer to rewrite their wills – then order their nurses away so he could administer mysterious injections. They frequently died soon after.
Then he’d inherit vast sums – after roaming their houses, collecting valuables.
There were other rumours, too. About Adams’ gay love-triangle with a top policeman and the Mayor of Eastbourne, who visited Adams daily and holidayed with him regularly.
By 1956, Dr Adams was the wealthiest GP in England. And it seemed he had powerful protectors.
But police had to investigate after receiving a tip-off about the death of Gertrude Hullett, 50. The widow had been depressed, and frequently talked of suicide.
When she gave Adams £1,000 to buy a sports car, and wrote him into her will, he gave her large amounts of pills. Two days later, she was found in a coma.
But Adams told no-one of the drugs, or Gertrude’s desire to die. He didn’t treat her for an overdose. Instead, he recorded her rapid death as a brain haemorrhage.
Adams walked away with her cash, valuables and Rolls Royce.
But, realising that Adams had tried to arrange Gertrude’s autopsy before she died, the pathologist did a post-mortem. And found she’d overdosed on sleeping pills.
In fact, investigations showed that, over the past 10 years, 160 of Adams’ patients had died in suspicious circumstances.
Of those, 132 had left him huge legacies, usually naming Adams as the sole executor.
‘A lot of those were instead of fees. I don’t want money. What’s the use of it?’ Adams protested.
Strangely, most of the deceased patients demanded cremation – unusual in those days.
Yet on all their cremation forms, Adams had written that he wasn’t due to inherit – which meant there’d been no post-mortems. And now there were no bodies to exhume.
‘Oh, that wasn’t done wickedly,’ Adams told the police. ‘God knows it wasn’t. We always want cremations to go off smoothly for the dear relatives. If I said I knew I was getting money under the will, they might get suspicious… It was not deceitful.’
The police, however, weren’t convinced of his innocence.
Another death they investigated was that of wealthy widow, Edith Morrell.
After she’d had a stroke in 1948, Adams had apparently got her addicted to heroin. Then she’d rewritten her will repeatedly, sometimes including Adams, at others cutting him out.
Was Edith being pressured against her will? The final one stipulated Adams would get nothing. Yet he’d still taken her money, antiques and, again, a Rolls Royce.
Now, searching Adams’ mansion, the police found a stockpile of dangerous drugs, which the doctor desperately tried
to hide from them – and false prescriptions.
‘That was very wrong,’ he told the police. ‘I have had God’s forgiveness for it.’
As for Mrs Morrell…
‘Easing the passing of a dying person isn’t all that wicked. She wanted to die. It is impossible to accuse a doctor,’ he insisted.
Wrong. In March 1957 at the Old Bailey, Dr Adams was tried for murdering Edith Morell. A second case, for the murder of Gertrude Hullett, was to follow.
The ‘murder trial of the century’ caused shocked headlines worldwide.
Some called Adams an Angel of Mercy, rewarded by patients for his loving care. Others called him the Angel of Death.
Four nurses testified that he’d frequently injected patients with massive doses of heroin and morphine – they’d felt shocked and suspicious, but helpless to intervene.
Former patients called him a ‘real scrounger’. But Adams refused to even testify – and threatened to ‘name names’ if he was convicted.
Now the jury had to decide
– should the doctor hang..?
The verdict caused shockwaves worldwide. Especially when the Attorney General then used ancient legal powers to ban the
second murder case.
Many still believed Adams was guilty, especially after he was convicted later that year of prescription fraud,
lying on cremation forms, obstructing a police search and failing to keep a dangerous drugs register.
He was fined £2,200 and struck off the medical register – but was soon reinstated. He died in 1983 with a fortune of £402,970.
Many historians now believe Adams was protected by powerful political friends, who feared that a murder, drugs and gay-sex scandal would bring down the newly-formed NHS, if not the Government itself.Like the Chat website? Subscribe to our magazine and you will be able to access our latest comprehensive content!