Colin Campbell Norris
(b. 1976, Glasgow) was a Scottish nurse and convicted serial killer from
the Milton area in Glasgow who murdered four elderly patients in a
hospital in Leeds, England, in 2002. He was sentenced in 2008 to serve a
minimum of 30 years in prison.
Norris worked at Leeds General Infirmary and St
James's Hospital. Suspicions were raised when Norris predicted the death
of one patient, Ethel Halls, saying she would die at 5:15am and she did.
He stated at the time: "it is always in the morning when things go wrong".
When questioned by police about this and three other patients who had
died while he was on duty, he said "he seemed to have been unlucky over
the last 12 months". The four patients were 79, 80, 86 and 88 years old.
The police investigated 72 cases in total.
The trial took 19 weeks and the jury deliberated for
4 days. Norris was convicted on 3 March 2008 of the murder of four women,
and the attempted murder of a fifth aged 90. He was sentenced to life
imprisonment, and ordered to serve a minimum term of 30 years in prison
the following day. Judge Mr Justice Griffith rejected any possibility
that Norris was practising euthanasia because none of the victims was
terminally ill. He told Norris when sentencing:
"You are, I have absolutely no doubt, a thoroughly
evil and dangerous man. You are an arrogant and manipulative man with a
real dislike of elderly patients. The most telling evidence was that
observation of one of your patients, Bridget Tarpey, who said 'he did
not like us old women'."
Referred to in the British press as the "Angel of
Death", Norris killed his victims by injecting them with high levels of
insulin. Though his victims were women, Norris is gay.
Jessie McTavish, a nurse convicted and then cleared
in 1974 for the murder of an 80-year-old patient with insulin, has been
identified as a possible inspiration for Norris. He once attended a
lecture on her case while studying at nursing college.
In the aftermath of Norris's conviction, the British
Media drew comparisons with Doctor Harold Shipman, Britain's most
prolific serial killer who killed more than 250 patients by lethal
injections. Det Ch Supt Chris Gregg who worked on the Shipman case and
led the Norris investigation was convinced that Colin Norris would have
gone on to kill considerably more people if he was not stopped in his
In 2006 Benjamin Geen, a nurse at a hospital in
Banbury, Oxfordshire, was given 17 life sentences for murdering two of
his patients and attacking 15 others. He used a variety of injections
which often included insulin.
'Evil And Arrogant': Killer Nurse
Tuesday March 04, 2008
Nurse Colin Norris has been jailed for life and told
he must serve a minimum term of 30 years after murdering four elderly
hospital patients who were in his care.
Norris, 32, of Egilsay Terrace,
Glasgow, killed the vulnerable women by giving them
massive doses of insulin when they went into hospital in
Leeds in 2002.
He was given four life sentences with
a minimum term of 30 years for each of the murders and a
20-year sentence to run concurrently for attempted
Jailing him at Newcastle Crown Court,
Mr Justice Griffith Williams said: "You are, I have
absolutely no doubt, a thoroughly evil and dangerous man... arrogant
and manipulative, with a real dislike of elderly
"There cannot be any suggestion you
were motivated to hasten their ends to spare them
suffering; indeed, there was no evidence that any of
them was suffering apart from the pains that the elderly
"I suspect you enjoyed the power that
ending a life gave you, choosing the elderly because
they were defenceless.
"Then, emboldened by the fact that
nobody suspected what was happening, it is clear you
embarked on what in truth was a campaign of killing - a
campaign which would, no doubt, have continued had not
experienced medical staff been alerted to what was
The judge said he had considered
imposing a full life sentence without any early release.
The aggravating factors were that the
victims were vulnerable, Norris breached the trust
others had in him as a nurse and that there was a degree
Norris showed no emotion as he was
led away from the dock.
West Yorkshire Police detectives have
said he showed no remorse for killing Doris Ludlam, 80,
Bridget Bourke, 88, Irene Crookes, 79, and Ethel Hall,
86, while he worked at the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI)
and the city's St James' Hospital.
He also tried to kill Vera Wilby, 90,
but she survived the coma which followed the unnecessary
Police began an investigation after
Dr Emma Ward noticed in November 2002 that Mrs Hall had
slipped into a hypoglycaemic coma despite not being a
Detectives looked at other deaths on
the wards from comas when Norris was working and after a
lengthy investigation found that by the time Dr Ward
raised her concerns he had already killed three times
and failed with another attempt.
The nearest the prosecution came to
outlining a motive was to suggest that Norris disliked
working with the elderly.
All his victims were frail after
suffering from hip problems, and could all have been
considered a burden to nursing staff.
Colin Norris, 'Angel of Death' nurse, may have killed more
By Paul Stokes and Nick Britten
A staff nurse convicted of murdering
four elderly women patients may also have killed three
others and was caught before he became "another Harold
Shipman", police have said.
Colin Norris, 32, believed he could
kill with impunity, claiming four "frail and helpless"
victims within six months by injecting them with lethal
doses of insulin.
He boasted to hospital colleagues that "someone always
died" when he was on the night shift and even accurately
predicted when one would lapse into a coma.
Norris, who had developed a hatred of elderly women in particular,
showed no emotion as he was found guilty of four murders at Newcastle
He will be sentenced on Tuesday.
Police believe if Norris had not been
caught - due to a doctor's vigilance - he could have killed many more,
drawing comparisons with Shipman, Britain's most prolific serial killer
who killed more than 250 patients by lethal injections.
Stuart Hall, the son of one of his
victims, Ethel Hall, said Norris "was either trying to play God or
wanted to be seen as a hero". Detectives said he killed simply because
the women irritated him.
The gay nurse disliked bathing elderly
Det Ch Supt Chris Gregg, who worked on
the Shipman case and led the Norris investigation, said: "Harold Shipman
showed what can happen if a killer is not caught until the end of his
"Here, we have a killer caught at the
very beginning of his career. I am convinced that Colin Norris would
have gone on to kill considerably more people if he was not stopped in
The detective added: "Norris was growing in confidence, he believed
he was perfecting his craft. If he had not been caught he would have
carried on. Why? Because he enjoyed it.
"He was selecting
people who were a nuisance to him. One of the ladies was
throwing her bedclothes off her just before he killed
her. To him she was an irritant, a nuisance, and for
that she died."
Norris, from Glasgow,
committed his crimes in 2002 while working in hospitals
in Leeds and once said he disliked caring for "geriatric
He was caught when a
specialist, Dr Emma Ward, grew suspicious and ordered
blood tests on Mrs Hall, 86, after she was found
Mrs Hall, who was
admitted to hospital with a broken hip, was discovered
to have been given 1,000 unnecessary units of insulin,
compared to the 50 a day given to someone with diabetes,
a condition she did not have.
It prompted a police
inquiry into the deaths of 72 patients, which identified
18 suspicious deaths, eight in which Norris the nurse at
the point of death.
He was later arrested
on suspicion of murdering five women and trying to
murder another while clinical explanations were accepted
for two of the deaths.
Norris was charged
with four murders - Mrs Hall, Doris Ludlam, 80, Bridget
Bourke, 88, and Irene Crookes, 79, and one attempted
murder, Vera Wilby, 90, after the Crown Prosecution
Service considered there were too many complicating
medical factors to bring a fifth murder charge.
examinations were not conducted in the case of the other
two and the deaths were certified as through natural
Smith QC, told Newcastle Crown Court there were "remarkably
common facts" between Norris's five victims, who had all
undergone surgery for hip fractures.
Each was in poor
health and could be regarded as a "burden to nursing
staff", Mr Smith said.
Each suffered from
hypoglycaemia between four and 12 days after surgery.
Norris has never
revealed a motive for his crime, leading senior
detectives to believe he did it simply because he had
the opportunity to do so.
Det Ch Supt Gregg said:
"What has shone out through this investigation and trial
is the absolute dedication of nursing and medical
professionals. Colin Norris is an exception to that.
"While others around
him were duly caring for their patients, he was looking
for opportunities to kill them by poisoning them with
"He presented himself
to police during interview and the court during the
trial as an extremely arrogant individual who has not
shown the slightest degree of remorse or emotion for
what he has done.
"Why he chose to do
what he did is only known to him, but it is clear that
all hi victims were frail, elderly ladies who were
vulnerable in his care.
"Norris is not only a
dangerous criminal, but cunning in his actions, choosing
times to commit his crimes carefully, being either early
in the morning or at weekends when he knew senior and
specialist staff were not routinely on duty."
Stuart Hall, 53, a
service engineer, called for a public inquiry and also
compared Norris to Dr Shipman.
Mr Hall, her son, said:
"As the person who injected his victims with insulin, he
was the only person who knew what was wrong with them
and that gave him the choice if he wanted to administer
the antidote and create a miracle revival.
"It gave him the power
to give life and to take life. I hope they put him away
permanently and never let him out."
Mr Hall added: "Somebody
like that is extremely dangerous because they know how
to kill discreetly.
"It is very much a
Shipman-like thing. It could have been more than five
and could yet still prove to be."
Mr Hall said Ethel's
widower John had a heart attack three weeks after her
death and other members of the family are sometimes too
scared to go to hospital.
Dr Hugo Mascie-Taylor,
medical director of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust,
said changes had since been implemented at their
hospitals but added that none of the changes could have
prevented Norris's crimes.
He said: "These were
dreadful crimes that took the victims prematurely from
their families. We are very sorry about this and our
thoughts today are with the families: for any distress
they suffered both at the time of their relative's death
and during the course of bringing Colin Norris to
Colin Norris, Angel of Death nurse: Timeline
February 12 1976: Colin Norris is born in Glasgow
and raised in Partick by a supportive family.
August 1992: Norris achieves six GCSEs and
studies travel, working in travel agencies before
switching careers to work as a nurse.
September 1998: Norris begins
studying for a Higher Nursing Diploma at
Dundee University in the School of
Nursing and Midwifery.
September 1999: Norris attends lectures on diabetes
and the treatment of diabetic patients with insulin.
May 24 to July 4
1999: While training to be a nurse, Norris works on
ward 11 at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee where he learns
about the management of patients with diabetes.
cares for elderly patients on ward 7 at the Royal
Victoria Hospital in Dundee as part of his training. He
tells his tutor he hated the placement and missed part
of it through "unauthorised absences".
January 11 2001:
Norris's personal tutor gives a specific talk to her
students on the subject of abuse of elderly patients,
including particular reference to a Glasgow nurse in the
1970s who was convicted - but later freed on appeal - of
killing elderly patients by injecting them with insulin.
May 21 2001:
Norris works at the Riverside Nursing Home in Dundee
caring for elderly people and misses 11 days of the
placement. During another placement in 2001 at Broughty
Ferry Health Centre, near Dundee, Norris tells a
district nursing sister he "didn't like working with
Norris graduates from Dundee University with a Higher
Norris starts work as a staff nurse at Leeds General
Infirmary where he works on ward 36. During the next 14
months he also works on the orthopaedic ward at St
James's Hospital in the city.
May 2 2002:
Vera Wilby, 90, is admitted to ward 36 at Leeds General
Infirmary with a broken left hip after a fall in Rawdon,
Leeds. Her condition deteriorates as she recovers from
May 17 2002:
Norris administers a dose of the powerful painkiller
morphine to Mrs Wilby to make her drowsy. He then
administers more drugs and 90 minutes after he finishes
his shift at the hospital, she is found semi-conscious
with a sudden hypoglycaemic attack but survives.
June 12 2002:
Doris Ludlam, 80, from Pudsey, West Yorkshire, suffers a
fall and breaks her hip at Chapel Allerton Hospital in
Leeds where she is receiving treatment for a heart
complaint. She is transferred to ward 36 at Leeds
General Infirmary for surgery.
June 16 2002:
Bridget Bourke, 88, of Holbeck, Leeds, is admitted to
ward 36 at Leeds General Infirmary with a broken right
June 17 2002:
Surgeons operate to repair Mrs Bourke's hip. She is
frail and confused, with bleeding in her head and
complications from a stroke and she also develops a
serious bacterial infection.
June 25 2002:
Norris gives Mrs Ludlam an "unnecessary" dose of the
powerful painkiller diamorphine, which is double the
recommended level. This renders her drowsy and Norris
then gives her drugs which reduce her blood sugar level
before he goes off shift at 7.45am. She is discovered in
a coma about 40 minutes later.
June 27 2002:
Mrs Ludlam dies.
July 20 2002:
Mrs Bourke falls out of bed.
July 21 2002:
Norris, who is working the night shift, claims to have
discovered Mrs Bourke slumped in bed at 3.10am. Doctors
are called and she is found to be deeply unconscious
after a hypoglaecaemic attack, despite not being
July 22 2002:
Mrs Bourke never recovers and dies shortly after
midnight. The death certificate records the cause of
death as from a stroke.
Mrs Wilby is discharged from hospital and goes to live
at a nursing home. She dies the following year from
October 10 2002:
Irene Crookes, 79, from Hunslet, Leeds, falls and
fractures her hip and is treated on ward 23 at St
James's Hospital. Norris treats her for several days and,
although she remains unwell, breathless and requiring
oxygen, and needing a walking frame to get about, her
condition is giving no undue cause for concern. Norris
records in her notes that her condition is improving.
October 19 2002:
Norris reports finding Mrs Crookes "totally unresponsive"
shortly before 6am. She has suffered a hypoglaecaemic
attack but is not diabetic.
October 20 2002:
Mrs Crookes dies.
Ethel Hall, 86, of Calverley, Leeds, is admitted to ward
36 at Leeds General Infirmary with a fracture to her hip
and undergoes surgery to repair it. All goes well and
she appears to be recovering, being able to walk with
November 19 2002:
Ethel Hall has fainting spell, which is not unknown for
November 20 2002:
Ethel Hall takes a "very serious turn for the worse" in
the early hours of the morning and staff find her
choking. Her blood sugar levels are found to be very low
and blood tests show abnormally high levels of insulin.
Earlier in the evening,
Norris predicts this change in condition, without any
medical indications, in a conversation with colleagues,
saying: "Whenever I did nights someone always died." He
continues: "It was always in the morning when things go
wrong - about 5.15am."
December 6 2002:
West Yorkshire Police are called in to investigate.
December 11 2002:
Ethel Hall dies of irreversible brain damage without
ever regaining consciousness.
During questioning by the police, Norris tells officers
"he seemed to have been unlucky over the last 12 months"
but denies murdering his patients.
14 months after her death, Mrs Bourke's body is exhumed
by detectives investigating Norris. A pathologist finds
that she died from an insulin-induced coma.
October 12 2005:
Norris is charged with four counts of murder and one
of attempted murder.
October 16 2007:
Norris goes on trial at Newcastle Crown Court charged
with four counts of murder and one of attempted murder.
March 3 2008:
Norris is found guilty of murdering Ethel Hall, Doris
Ludlam, Irene Crookes and Bridget Bourke. He is also
convicted of the attempted murder of Vera Wilby.
Colin Norris: From student to deadly abuser
By Paul Stokes
Colin Norris’s hatred of elderly women developed from
the first time he was asked to wash and bathe them at a nursing home.
But what could have inspired the gay nurse on his
path towards serial killing may have been the notorious case of Jessie
McTavish, accused of being the “sister of mercy who became an angel of
Norris was an idle student at nursing college, but one of the few
lectures he attended was about the abuse of elderly patients – citing
the case of Sister McTavish, who was jailed for killing an 80-year-old
patient with an injection of insulin in 1974 although the conviction was
later overturned on appeal.
A year after the
lecture, Norris’s campaign of murder began adopting the
same method - using insulin - and later he even copied
McTavish who allegedly predicted the minute that a
patient would die.
Norris was born in
Glasgow 32 years ago to his namesake father, a painter
and decorator, and his mother June, who worked as a
The paradox of his
pathological dislike of elderly patients was that the
person he had been closest to in his life was his
As an only child, he
became particularly close to Elizabeth Ogilvie, who is
in her late 70s, after his parents divorced when he was
nine years old.
She refuses to accept
he could be the killer of four woman pensioners, saying:
“He can’t have done it, not my grandson, not my boy.”
Later in his life,
Norris would tell a colleague that he did not like
bathing female patients - “especially because they were
the same age as my grandmother”.
He grew up in the
city’s Partick area and saw little of his father after
the matrimonial split, Mrs Norris remarrying four years
Mother and son went to
live with her new husband Raymond Morrison, also a
painter and decorator, and his young son, in the next
street to her mother in Milton, Glasgow.
Norris served as a boy
scout and helped look after mentally handicapped people
while also becoming involved in amateur dramatics.
At secondary school he
passed six standard examinations, Scotland’s equivalent
of GCSEs, before going on to college to study travel.
He left the course
after a year to work in travel agencies before deciding
to train as a nurse when he was 22.
Norris said he made
the career switch because “you get to deal with people
and get to make a difference in their lives.”
He studied for a
Higher Nursing Diploma at Dundee University’s School of
Nursing and Midwifery and also had two part-time jobs.
His first contact with
elderly patients came during a placement on Ward Seven
at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Dundee, in 1998.
Norris complained to a
friend that he was unhappy because he did not like
geriatric patients - he preferred the excitement of
He was also sent to
the Riverside View Nursing Home in Dundee, but reported
in sick with a sore throat after three days and never
returned to complete the planned four week stay.
He told a colleague:
“When I was bathing female patients and washing them
down below I found it difficult to start with,
especially because they were the same age as my
During the three year
course, Isabella McLafferty, his personal tutor, recalls
having to warn him about his attitude and poor
It was she that on
January 11, 2001 gave a specific talk to her students on
the subject of the alleged abuse of elderly patients,
including particular reference to the case of Sister
She was from Glasgow,
Norris’s home city, and her trial caused a sensation
three decades ago, although the conviction was later
As a trainee nurse
Norris also worked Ward 11 at Ninewells Hospital,
Dundee, where he learned about managing patients with
While there he
repeatedly refused to change patients or their bedding.
Police have found no
evidence to suggest he harmed any of his charges during
his student years.
But four months after
qualifying he obtained a job as a staff nurse on Ward 36
at Leeds General Infirmary and a six month killing spree
Norris was openly gay,
spoke in a strong Scottish accent, wore thick
black-rimmed glasses and is also remembered for nipping
through the fire escape for a cigarette during night
He had no criminal
record and shared accommodation with other men while
living in Leeds.
His first attempt to
kill a patient in May 2002 failed when 90 year old Vera
Wilby survived because the insulin overdose was
counteracted by her naturally high blood-sugar level.
Like the others
victims to come, she was frail, vulnerable and in poor
state of health both before and after undergoing surgery
to repair a damaged hip.
Her quality of life
was diminished and she was a difficult patient to care
At the end of one of
Norris’s night shifts she was found by medical staff in
a hypo-glycaemic state, her brain being starved of
She survived the
attack but was the only one to do so.
Norris refined his
killing technique before murdering Doris Ludlum, 80, in
In the early hours of
June 25, Norris gave her an “unnecessary” dose of the
powerful painkiller diamorphine, which was double the
This rendered her
drowsy, and then before he went off shift at 7.45am,
Norris injected insulin, which reduced her blood sugar
Forty minutes later
she was discovered in a coma and she died two days
A month later Bridget
Bourke, 88, died of the same hypo-glycaemic condition on
Norris’ watch, and then Irene Crookes, 79, in October.
All the woman had been
injected with massive insulin overdoses, even though
they were not diabetics so did not need the drug, as
they recovered from routine hip operations.
On each occasion, the
deaths were put down to natural causes – and Norris’s
He told a colleague
“someone always died” when he was on the nightshift and
was said to have become so arrogant that he accurately
predicted his next death, that of Ethel Hall, to within
After she was found
collapsed in a coma, Norris pointed to his watch and
said to a staff nurse: “I told you so”.
colleague said that Norris seemed to react with
“detached amusement” when the women died, while two
ex-patients claimed Norris verbally abused them after
they rang an emergency buzzer on a ward when an elderly
patient climbed out of bed.
They said he told them:
“I hope you suffer” and “rot in hell”.
A total of 72 deaths
were investigated by police as part of the investigation
and 18 were classified as high priority before he was
charged with the four murders and attempted murder.
Detectives believe he
used the opiates to make his victims drowsy before
injecting them with the lethal dose of insulin.
documents detailing a less painful way of injecting
morphine or diamorphine.
The prosecution said
it was impossible to say what the motive was, but all
the patients had been difficult and were capable of
being a burden to medical staff.
He was suspended by
the Royal College of Nursing the day after his arrest on
Dec 11 2002. While on bail, he moved back to Glasgow,
worked for an events company and travelled abroad eight
times while under investigation.
Det Chf Supt Chris
Gregg, who led the police inquiry, said: “His arrogance
was astonishing. He thought he could get away with
murder. “Each time we asked a question he simply evaded
it. It was as if he was saying `You can’t prove a thing’.”