Monday, June 20, 2022

John Bodkin Adams: The Harold Shipman of the 1950s

With the Conservative candidate in the Wakefield by-election having drawn an analogy between the party's previous MP for the seat and Dr Harold Shipman, my mind has returned to the bad doctor's equivalent from the 1950s, Dr John Bodkin Adams.

Though he was acquitted of murder at the Old Bailey, the number of Eastbourne widows who changed their wills in Bodkin Adams' favour, only to expire after his next visit, leaves little doubt about what was really going on.

In fact the video above suggests the evidence from the police investigation of him reveals that he may be Britain's worst ever serial killer.

Bodkin Adams has appeared on this blog three times.

First, I revealed that the chaplain of All Saints Hospital, Eastbourne, at the time of Bodkin Adams' arrest was the Revd Hubert Brasier, better known today as the father of Theresa May.

Talking of the Conservative Party, Bodkin Adams was the doctor of Harold Macmillan's brother-in-law the Duke of Devonshire and was attending him as he died. 

This video, as many modern accounts do, ties that in with the fact that one of Macmillan's children was fathered by the Tory peer Bob Boothby, and tries to tie that into the story as a reason for the Establishment engineering an acquittal.

I've seen this theory elsewhere, but never much evidence to suggest it's true.

Besides, Labour has its connections with this story too. The doctor called as his main expert witness onr John B. Harman. He was the president of the Medical Defence Union and the father of Harriet Harman.

Revelaing that face was my second mention of Bodkin Adams here. The third was to reveal that the man who put the police on to him was the variety star Leslie Henson, because he had suspicions about the death of an old friend.

Leslie Henson was the father of the actor Nicky Henson and the grandfather of Countryfile's Adam Henson.

Whether any of them have worked with Timothy West, I don't know, but you can find him playing Bodkin Adams in a dramatised version of the affair on YouTube. And there's an enjoyable review by Craig Brown of a book on the case.


Anonymous said...

An elderly friend of mine, also a doctor from Eastbourne, as it happens, is proud of the fact that Bodkin Adams was his Sunday School teacher.

Jonathan Calder said...

Thank you for that!

Anonymous said...

Dr John was family and we are from rural mid Ulster and I have childhood memories of meeting him at his home in Eastbourne, while on holiday . I had no idea who he was, until much later when I was a student nurse and we had a lecture on how this case changed nursing.