Eastbourne GP and euthanasia enthusiast John Bodkin Adams was acquitted of murder in 1957 - despite being found to be the beneficiary of 132 patients' wills.

The case of Dr John Bodkin Adams is a contentious one due to the fact that the general practitioner was never actually found guilty of murder or professional negligence. However, years after his own death, conflicting views remain about whether Bodkin Adams was guilty of murder or euthanasia. To some he is regarded as a forerunner of the medical mass murderer Dr Harold Shipman, while others believe that he simply carried out mercy killings at a time when painkillers were the only way to alleviate terminal suffering.

Dr John Bodkin Adams was a general practitioner in the elegant Sussex seaside town of Eastbourne. An Irish loner, he was seemingly unconcerned about benefiting from gifts and legacies from his elderly, rich patients.

The middle-aged doctor was not known to be an outstanding practitioner, but he was recognised as being compassionate and considerate, particularly to his elderly patients who trusted him. There were, however, other aspects about his ‘modus operandi’ that caused concern, mainly his tendency to use dangerous drugs and, as some critics have described, a pathological interest in his patients’ wills.