LOOKING BACK: Doctors’ unique insight into ‘killer’

Dr John Bodkin Adams
Dr John Bodkin Adams
  • Spotlight on suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams
  • More than 160 patients died in suspicious circumstances
  • Historic manor house hosts Dial Medicine for Murder

The life of notorious Eastbourne doctor and suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams will come under the spotlight at an event later this month at Folkington Manor where the medic was a frequent visitor.

Dial Medicine for Murder is on at the manor at 7pm on Friday April 10 when the intriguing story of Dr John Bodkin Adams and Dr Harold Shipman, two of the most notorious physicians of the 20th century, is explored in a unique ‘consultation’ with Dr Harry Brunjes, the current owner at Folkington, and Dr Andrew Johns.

Bodkin Adams was a frequent visitor to Folkington back in the day when it was owned by his close friend Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Roland Vaughan Gwynne, a former Eastbourne mayor from 1928 to 1931.

Gwynne inherited Folkington but constantly had financial problems, caused on the one hand by his extravagant lifestyle – he was famous for the wild parties he held at the manor, attended by, among others, Freeman Freeman-Thomas, Viceroy of India and Rudyard Kipling – and on the other, by his sexuality, which made him a prime target for blackmail.

Gwynne never married but he developed a close friendship with John Bodkin Adams, with whom he went on frequent shooting holidays to Scotland and Ireland. He would visit Adams every morning at 9am.

During the police investigation into Adams, a note written by a journalist was uncovered linking Adams sexually to a member of the local police and a local magistrate. The police officer is strongly suspected to have been the Deputy Chief Constable of Eastbourne, Alexander Seekings, and the magistrate to have been Gwynne.

In 1956, Adams was arrested on suspicion of murdering two of his patients. Gwynne was chairman of the magistrates in Lewes and had to step down from the committal hearing owing to a conflict of interest.

Bodkins Adams was an Irish general practitioner, convicted fraudster and suspected serial killer after between 1946 and 1956, more than 160 of his patients died in suspicious circumstances, and of those 132 left him money or items in their wills. He was tried and acquitted for the murder of one patient in 1957. Another count of murder was withdrawn by the Attorney General.

Adams was found guilty in a subsequent trial of 13 offences of prescription fraud, lying on cremation forms, obstructing a police search and failing to keep a dangerous drugs register. He was removed from the Medical Register in 1957 and reinstated in 1961 after two failed applications.

In 1947, burdened with debt, Gwynne was forced to rent out Folkington and move into the smaller Wootton Manor. He fell into depression, suffered a stroke and died in November 1971 in a nursing home, aged 89. His death certificate was signed by Dr Adams.

Adams stayed in the home he had brought in Eastbourne, Kent Lodge in Trinity Trees, and died in 1983 after fracturing his hip and developing a chest infection.

Jacqueline Brunges, Dr Harry Brunges’ wife said, “We have been fascinated to discover that Folkington Manor was regularly visited by Eastbourne’s infamous Dr John Bodkin Adams.

“Together with one of our closest friends Dr Andrew Johns, a consultant forensic psychiatrist who treated Dr Harold Shipman, they are presenting the juxtaposition of the two doctors.

“The show has been selected to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer but they are doing a performance on Friday April 10 at the manor.”

Tickers are £15 including a free glass of wine and available on line at www.folking
tonmanor.com or by calling 483946.