Hospital Serial Killer: A Jury in the Dark

By Mark Daly, from insidetime issue October 2011

BBC Scotland Investigations Correspondent Mark Daly was reunited with former Rough Justice producer Louise Shorter to make Hospital Serial Killer A Jury in the Dark about prisoner Colin Norris. Here, he talks about the making of the film.

Hospital Serial Killer: A Jury in the Dark

I’ve investigated miscarriage of justice cases before, but never when the prisoner claiming innocence is a convicted serial killer. For that and many other reasons, the case of Colin Norris is at once fascinating and deeply troubling.

Here is a male nurse, bright and with no history of violence, accused of a six-month murdering rampage. He was convicted of poisoning with insulin five frail, elderly patients in his care in hospital.

He was predictably dubbed the “Angel of Death” and got 30 years in 2008. Few would shed any tears for such a monster.

However, if one of the central scientific assumptions which underpin the whole case is flawed which is what my BBC investigation
alleges then we are potentially looking at one of the worst miscarriage cases in recent history.

Our programme team listened to more than a dozen hours of police interviews and read through 35 boxes of evidence. We spoke to witnesses, and to former colleagues of Colin’s.
Few believed him capable of these crimes.

On November 20th 2001 Colin had told colleagues he thought one of his patients, Ethel Hall, would not last the night. Common staff parlance, according to nurses we spoke to.

But that night she suffered an unexplained hypoglycemic episode (extreme low blood sugar) which led to her death three weeks later. A blood test appeared to show high levels of insulin. Colin was immediately in the frame.

West Yorkshire Police started working backwards, and produced another four cases where the women involved suffered unexplained
hypoglycemic episodes. They had all been hitherto certified as having natural deaths but now police had learned Colin Norris had been on shift for each incident, they were being treated as murders.

This was on the basis that unexplained hypoglycemias were believed to be so rare, that a cluster of five within six months was so
suspicious, it must mean foul play.

The new scientific evidence revealed in our programme seriously undermines that case.

Professor Vincent Marks, the world’s most experienced insulin expert, found that up to 10% of elderly sick in hospital suffer this
condition – meaning it is not that rare at all. He believes Colin’s convictions are unsafe.

Additionally, the film features concerns over the insulin test on Ethel Hall. Despite Colin’s five convictions, it could be that none of the
women involved in this case were murdered.

Digging through the boxes of files, we also found evidence over the way Colin’s alleged victims had been selected. We learned claims that police had told one family their relative’s death was suspicious and Colin was in the frame. The family were later told the death was no longer suspicious, after police discovered Colin was not working that night.

Lawyers accuse the police of focusing their investigation too narrowly on Colin and cherry picking evidence. The police, for their
part, are sure the right man is in prison.

An application for a fresh appeal, based on the new evidence revealed in our film will be submitted to the Criminal Cases Review

I began investigating this case five months ago with an open mind, and would have dropped it if the evidence didn’t stack up.
And I believe Colin Norris is not guilty.

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Comments about this article

5/10/2011 Sarah

I have always believed Colin is not guilty. Now to get him out of that place where he should be. Back with his family and friends who love him.

7/10/2011 Steven Battram -

The justice system does not like to admit it has made a mistake and will, as always, drag out appeals until every avenue has been exhausted. Now Colin has been convicted, even if there is good evidence the police got it wrong not a single judge or police officer will admit it, until they are dragged kicking and screaming to justice. The police and judges love to dish out justice, but can't take their own medicine. It reminds me of a criminal denying guilt and fighting the case every step of the way. Surely judges and the police should be held accountable for hindering justice, dragging appeals on keeping an innocent man in prison for as long as possible.

On reading about this case I felt uneasy about the police investigation. I don't accept Colin is a serial killer. Unlike the Shipman case, where Shipman had complete control and could manipulate the decision processes, Colin could have been found out at stage. What the police allege he was doing was reckless, and does not fit the serial killer profile of cunning and manipulation.

8/10/2011 catherine summers


10/10/2011 rod -

mark you and louise are doing a fine job exposeing this rotten system,do not stop getting to the bottom of this corrupt system coursing so many miscarriages of just, would like to know why the c.c.r.c moved in to the offices of the C.P.S. building in birmingham with Foster in charge former area head of the C.P.S. it does make many wonder what is going on there, run by the goverment,bill paid by the goverment (reduced), with it's own employere's who coursed these problems in the first place. Talk about barriers in the way, maybe some one could answer these points i raise.I caught them out.

13/10/2011 rod

mark and louise, well today had an internal investigating police officer round for a few hours,the verdict on my case was (A) can not wait for the book to be written,(B)it will take a task force to round up corrupt individuals in our legal professions including our courts, he saw fact not fiction and to all who are fighting do not give up the fight, keep going the pair of you and all those following my comments on articles seems i have uncovered a bag of worms in our system.

21/10/2011 rod -

louise look into operation vista by the commissioner of police pauline claire set up in 1997 as for years prior certain individuals framed up people for many various crimes as it was running out of control and still is in our legal professions and police etc. tell you more if you want to call me send email

29/10/2011 Zack

I gave a very comprehensive statement to the police in relation to a murder case. That 'very comprehensive statement' disapeared and having
asked a judge why no one had contacted me after the court case, his replied to my letter and stated-he knew nothing of me!

Over a year later whilst investigating why the justice system had failed me, I discovered that I inadvertently became a witness for the convicted murderer (though I am adamant - a person with diminished mind) however, I received an explanation from the DI who headed the case, and he stated in his letter "only evidence supporting the prosecution will get as far as the courts"! Which to me I conclude, means: If a person who tells the truth and who's statement is based on facts, will have their testimony discarded if it so much as casts doubt on the charges served, or supports the defense?

That statement led me on a one man campaign! Whereby I have one goal! And quite simply I am almost there- Which is to have the case reviewed and the sentence reduced to reflect manslaughter not murder.

I was brought up with integrity, and will not change my ways for anybody, including the police.

30/10/2011 Phillip Shaw

Lets not forget the Police motivation. For every team that convicts an alledged killer of this ilk there are promotions and pay increases, tea and medals if you will. As long as the promotion and pay increases are attached to such investigations then the goals will be blurred!

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This article appears under the following categories...
Miscarriages Of Justice
Unsafe Prosecutions

Summary of headlines for October 2011
Current page: Hospital Serial Killer: A Jury in the Dark
Do Offending Behaviour Programmes really work?
This is a man’s world
Will working prisons work out?
The myth of rehabilitation
Accessing Offending Behaviour Programmes
Murder by More Than One
Bob Woffinden writes…
Month by Month October 2011
The media and the court of public opinion
Justice isn’t blind; it has tunnel vision
Restorative justice after the riots?
Views on criminal justice.
Probation staff act more link "charlatans"
From over the wall
The ‘Forgotten Victims of Crime’
Prison Widow
Criminal Justice in crisis
Creating Freedom in Russia

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