John Bodkin Adams

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Dr John Bodkin Adams
Born 21 January 1899
Randalstown, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Died 4 July 1983
Eastbourne, England

John Bodkin Adams (21 January 1899 – 4 July 1983) was a British doctor, fraudster and suspected serial killer.[1]

Early years[change | change source]

Adams was born in Randalstown in what is now Northern Ireland. His parents were from a very strict Christian sect called the Plymouth Brethren - and they believed that what ever they did in life, they would go to heaven anyway. He had one brother, William, born in 1903. His father died in 1914 and Adams was brought up by his mother. The family moved to Belfast but in 1918 William died from flu. Adams studied medicine at university.

Job[change | change source]

Adams worked for one year in a hospital in Bristol. He then moved to Eastbourne, England where he became a general practitioner. He cared for a lot of old female patients and many of them were very rich. 132 left him money or gifts when they died. Rumours started that Adams was killing them with heroin and morphine and the police decided to investigate. Many of the possible victims had been cremated (burnt), so there were few bodies for the police to analyse.

Trial[change | change source]

Adams was arrested and tried for the murder of one patient in 1957, but found not guilty. Another charge was withdrawn - an event the judge later criticised. The trial was reported in newspapers around the world[2] and was described at the time as "one of the greatest murder trials of all time".[3]

Claims of unfairness[change | change source]

Some have claimed that the trial was not held fairly.[1] Police files show that the prosecution gave secret records to the defence to help them defend Adams. Evidence (some notebooks written by the patient's nurses) was lost by the prosecution and then found later by the defence.[1] When it was produced during the trial, the prosecution pretended that it had never seen it.[1] Also, the case that was chosen (Mrs Morrell) was probably one of the least likely to succeed.[1][4]

One historian claims that the government did not want Adams to be convicted, because he would then have been hanged. If this had happened, many doctors would have refused to treat government (NHS) patients and the government would have become very unpopular.[1]

Other crimes[change | change source]

Adams was later found guilty of 13 other crimes - prescription fraud, lying on cremation forms, obstructing a police search and failing to keep a register of the dangerous drugs he used.

He had his license to be a doctor taken away in 1957 but it was given back in 1961. He was banned for life from prescribing dangerous drugs.

Scotland Yard's files on the case were meant to be secret until 2033, but special permission was given in 2003 to open them.[1]

Opinions[change | change source]

Even though he was found not guilty, most experts now consider him to have been a serial killer.[1] The judge in his trial later wrote a book in which he said Adams was probably guilty.[5] The police thought that Adams killed 163 of his patients.[1]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Pamela Cullen: A Stranger in Blood. Elliott & Thompson. ISBN 1904027199
  2. Time Magazine, 22 April 1957
  3. Law and Literature, ed. Brook Thomas, Page 149 - quoting Rupert Furneaux
  4. Rodney Hallworth, Mark Williams 1983. Where there's a will... The sensational life of Dr John Bodkin Adams. Capstan Press, Jersey. ISBN 0946797005
  5. Patrick Devlin, Easing the passing: The trial of Doctor John Bodkin Adams, London, The Bodley Head, 1985

Books about the Adams trial[change | change source]

  • Sybille Bedford, The best we can do. 1958
  • Marshall Cavendish, Murder casebook 40 Eastbourne's Doctor Death, 1990
  • Pamela V. Cullen, A Stranger in Blood: the case files on Dr John Bodkin Adams, London, Elliott & Thompson, 2006, ISBN 1-904027-19-9
  • Patrick Devlin, Easing the passing: the trial of Doctor John Bodkin Adams, London, The Bodley Head, 1985
  • Percy Hoskins, Two men were acquitted: the trial and acquittal of Doctor John Bodkin Adams
  • Rodney Hallworth, Mark Williams, Where there's a will... The sensational life of Dr John Bodkin Adams, 1983, Capstan Press, Jersey ISBN 0946797005
  • John Surtees, The Strange Case of Dr. Bodkin Adams: the life and murder trial of Eastbourne's infamous doctor and the views of those who knew him, 2000