We have had a tiny number of doctors convicted of numerous murders. Dr Neil Cream was a poisoner. Dr Crippen was convicted of the murder of his wife, although more modern forensic and scientific analysis has thrown a new light on this, and thrown doubt into the conviction. Dr Buck Ruxton murdered his wife and housekeeper, but scientific work by Professor Robert Glaister proved the identity of his wife. Then in modern times we had the murderous doctor, Harold Shipman. But one man is noted in some murder forums as a Shipman before his time. This was Dr John Bodkin Adams. Some put a "Possible" number of victims as high as 160!! Without any proof!! Dr Adams was put on trial for just one murder. That of elderly, wealthy, Edith Morell, in Eastbourne in 1956.
Dr Adams, a General Practitioner of 60, had enjoyed a successful career as a doctor, and had a sizeable patient roster. Many were elderly women in retirement, and as you grow older, you are more and more susceptible to illness and ailments. As to be expected, patients die, that is life. But what led Dr Adams to be on trial for his life, was common gossip. He was rewarded for his care by many of his patients in their wills. But in reality, he did not receive huge payments. One patient left him a Rolls Royce. But in truth, it was an ageing one. This tittle tattle attracted the attentions of the Police. Scotland Yard was brought in with Superintendent Herbert Hannam leading the investigation. The body of Gertrude Hullett was exhumed, but Dr Francis Camps could not find any evidence of foul play. Camps asked for two more exhumations of former patients, but only one was good for re-examination. Both Camps and Professor Keith Simpson agreed on the cause of death, which matched the reason given by Adams.
Months later, Hannam arrested Adams for the murder of Edith Alice Morell and put on trial at the Old Bailey. The prosecution was led by Attorney General Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller, also known as "Bullying Manner" for his prosecuting tactics. The defence was led by Geoffrey Lawrence, a very quiet, polite Barrister. In the subsequent trial, Mr Lawrence completely destroyed the case against Dr Adams. He destroyed the credibility of the four nurses who tended Mrs Morell with their own written words. He did the same to a redoubtable Physician, Dr Arthur Douthwaite, and to top it off, the cop in charge, Superintendent Hannam. Hannam never forgave Mr Lawrence for the mauling he gave him in the witness box, bitterly resenting him until his dying day. It was a true masterclass in cross examination. The jury cleared Dr Adams in just over forty minutes!
Dr Adams was later prosecuted over some technical laws over the use of drugs and lost his practitioners licence but had it restored a few years later. During the build up to the trial, Dr Adams had been convicted by oth public opinion and by the media. Only one reporter believed in his innocence and that was Daily Express crime reporter Percy Hopkins. He stood alone in a sea of guilty before trial. As to the supposed tally of 160, it seems to be jumping to conclusions. Obviously he had to be guilty of some murders. So goes the reasoning. Yet there was never any proof presented. People can point the finger and say so and so must have done more, but if a person has no blood on their hands, courtesy of a Court of Law, how can Adams be labelled as being a true mass murderer.