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Granddaughter of Harold Shipman’s first victim ‘forever haunted’ by serial killer

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The granddaughter of killer doctor Harold Shipman’s first victim says she still feels consumed by anger almost half a century later.

Eva Lyons was 71 when she had her life cruelly snatched away by the evil doctor masquerading as a trusted family friend in 1975.

Shipman injected Eva, who had cancer, with a lethal dose of painkiller in her own bedroom and then calmly waited for her to die.

He even asked Eva’s unsuspecting husband Richard for a cup of coffee before going back to “check” on her.

Though the murder was 45 years ago Eva’s granddaughter Debbie Bartlett, who was 13 at the time, says she gets angrier by the day thinking about it.

Speaking ahead of a new BBC documentary telling the stories of some of Shipman’s 236 victims, Debbie said: “There’s us thinking this lovely, caring doctor who’s dedicated arrives the night before her birthday to see how she is and basically bumps her off.

“We only find out 25 years later that Shipman was a serial killer. He wasn’t kind and caring, he was a cold, calculating, cruel predator who selected my gran that night to start his process.”

Shipman paid a late-night visit to Eva after she was discharged from hospital with oesophagus cancer.

Pretending to be a doting doctor, he administered a deadly dose of diamorphine as Richard watched.

Debbie, a 59-year-old designer, said: “Looking back, Shipman definitely groomed my grandfather and grandmother. They looked up to him. That’s what angers me even more – he made a complete fool of my grandfather.

“My grandfather stood next to him while he injected my grandmother in the back of her hand.

“Even to this day I keep picturing their bedroom. An image of him, my trusting grandfather stood next to him, then he took my grandmother’s life and said, ‘Can I stay for a cup of coffee?’

“Then he said, ‘I’ll have another look – I’m sorry Mr Lyons, she’s passed away.’ It beggars belief.”

Eva’s cause of death was put down as cancer – in paperwork filled in by Shipman. It wasn’t until 25 years later that Debbie, her mother Norma and father Richard found out the truth – that she had been murdered.

Shipman was first arrested in 1998 after suspicions were raised about the death of Kathleen Grundy, who recently changed her will to include the doctor.

Greater Manchester Police’s investigation into the much-loved GP raised red flags, with cops finding many of his patients suddenly passing away.

Elderly women died in the afternoon, fully clothed and sitting in chairs with their doors unlocked. It followed an odd pattern.

In the town of Hyde, Greater Manchester, where he worked it was to earn him the nickname of Dr Death.

Police eventually charged him with 15 murders but it was feared the true number of victims was in the hundreds.

After he was jailed for life in 2000 journalists and cops began re-examining all the deaths under his care.

It took them to Todmorden, West Yorks, where Shipman began his career in the 1970s.

It was then they linked him to Eva Lyons and the moment that gave him a taste for playing God.

Debbie, who lives in London, said: “Somebody had to be the first victim and it so happened to be my grandmother.

“She had cancer but she’d come home from hospital, she was still living a life. She was still sitting out in the garden enjoying the plants, the flowers. Spring was in the air. We knew she was dying but she wasn’t in pain at that moment in time.”

It was two days before Debbie’s 14th birthday when she found out her gran was dead.

As she grew into an adult she thought Eva had passed away peacefully – only for the horrific truth to emerge decades later.

She said: “The way it’s affected me, I’ve had to revisit that whole end of life thing with my grandmother and repackage it as being done by a serial killer.

“Then you hear about all the other murders and how people never seemed to tie it up.

“My grandmother was a really ebullient, effervescent lady. She was a little package of dynamite.

“We sewed together, she was in the amateur dramatics, she played tennis, she was involved with the church.

“And he just threw all that away. We were due to see her the weekend after and he deprived us of that last moment with her.”

This year marks 20 years since Shipman’s murder conviction and 16 since he hanged himself in jail.

But Debbie added: “We’ll be forever linked to this and we never asked to be. We were just a quiet family and then to suddenly have this brought to her doorstep. My mum blocked it out.

“I can picture my childhood and happy times with my grandmother. That’s not tainted. But I won’t go to Todmorden again.

“I get angrier and angrier as I get older. I do think he’s a b******. He deprived us of more happy memories.

“His arrogance and smugness is a thing I’ll never forget. When he hung himself I shouted to the TV ‘You b******, you’ve just met your maker.’

“He could have offered some reason for doing it, an apology. But nothing. He’s denied us that he isn’t suffering any more. Unless there’s a Hell. “

According to statistics experts Professor Richard Baker, Shipman probably killed 236 of his patients making him one of the world’s worst ever murderers.

He hid in plain sight for over 20 years, using his position to kill victims including Marie Quinn, 67, and Norah Nuttall, 64, in Hyde in 1997 and 1998.

Also featured in the BBC documentary is Peter Wagstaff, whose mum Kathleen, 81, was murdered by the doctor in Hyde in 1997.

He said: “I found the trial very difficult. You think she’s died a millionaire’s death, in her chair without pain. Then you find out she’s been murdered.”

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