The Death of John Bennett Molesdale
My wife never met John MOLESDALE, her first cousin once removed, for the simple reason that she had no idea he existed. That is until 1997 when she received a mysterious letter from a genealogy company which suggested that they had 'information to her advantage' which they were prepared to divulge, in exchange for a share of the proceeds. Intrigued, she, her sister and their cousin Peter agreed and discovered that their unknown cousin had died in late 1994 having not made a will and that they were the beneficiaries as the closest living relatives.

It was a modest estate – simple house and small savings – but the circumstances of his death did seem odd, based on the stories told by John's neighbours, Mrs Brelsford and Mrs Wood. They explained how they had found John, his door wide open, dead in his chair, and not a penny in the house, even though his pension had been collected recently. We suspected some sort of foul play, possibly an opportunist thief who may have spotted an open door and ltierally frightened the old man to death. And this is not just with the benefit of hindsight. It is a conversation I remember well, but it seemed pointless to pursue it so long after his death.

What didn't register at the time was the behaviour of his doctor, who was quite insistent that they should find John's will. You see, we thought we knew this GP well. He had once been a partner at out own family group practice, and had treated our daughter when on call one weekend. And like everyone else in the Hyde, we thought him a 'good GP.' His name was Harold Frederick Shipman, convicted of killing 15 of his elderly patients

The Indpendent reported that John was the first male victim, but this was later proved to be incorrect. On 19 July, the Shipman Inquiry published the list of 215 men and women who the doctor had unlawfully killed and the verdict on John can be found on the web. There is much information about him on their website. I have also included the BBC's background article on the case, which also might prove helpful.

Meanwhile, from the point of view of a family historian, I still think that his greatest legacy, at least for me, was not the money or his house, but the vast collection of birth, marriage and death certicates for the MOLESDALE family they handed over (about £400 worth) which set me on the road to tracing them back to the 1700s in Cadishead. A most colourful family!

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