1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn left to “sausage fingered” glutton and suspected serial killer Doctor John Bodkin Adams for sale for £65,000
Doctor John Bodkin Adams was a man with a penchant for Charbonnel et Walker chocolates and Rolls-Royces. A well-known glutton, this prequel to Doctor Harold Shipman was left two such cars by alleged victims and now one is for sale for £64,950.
Born into a fiercely religious family in County Antrim in 1899 and the son of a watchmaker and car enthusiast, John Bodkin Adams graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in 1921 despite being described as a “plodder” and “lone wolf”. He moved to Eastbourne in Sussex in 1922 and in time Adams became known as the go-to doctor to the great and the good and most especially elderly female patients.
With patients numbering the Olympic medal winner Lord Burghley and the society painter Oswald Birley, Adams was described as “probably the wealthiest GP in England” in 1956 and became accustomed to a life of luxury. He swapped the scooter he used when he first arrived in Eastbourne for a chauffeur driven Rolls-Royce in 1928 and inherited £7,385 (the equivalent of £472,000 today) from a patient named Matilda Whitton in 1935.
In 1950, a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost (valued at £1,500 or the equivalent of £47,000 today) came into his possession after a wealthy widow and patient, Edith Alice Morrell, left it to him. Another bequest from another patient named Gertrude Hullett in July 1956 included a Shell Grey 1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn (“worth at least £2,900” or the equivalent of £68,000 today). That car is now for sale through Classic Automobiles in West London.
Aside from resulting in Dr Adams gaining the Silver Dawn, Hullett’s death brought him to the attention of the police after one of her friends anonymously made allegations to them. He was arrested in December 1956 and during an especially high profile trial, the “fat and pink-skinned” doctor “with fingers like sausages” was even mentioned in a poem titled Adam and Eves. It was read to 150 guests at The Cavendish Hotel in Eastbourne during the trial and featured references to the Rolls-Royce:
In Eastbourne it is healthy
And the residents are wealthy
It’s a miracle that anybody dies;
Yet this pearl of English lidos
Is a slaughter house of widows –
If their bank rolls are above the normal size.
If they’re lucky in addition
In their choice of a physician
And remember him when making out their wills
And bequeath their Rolls-Royces
Then they soon hear angel voices
And are quickly freed from all their earthly ills.
If they’re nervous or afraid of
What a heroine is made of
Their mentality will soon be reconditioned
So they needn’t feel neglected
They will shortly be infected
With the heroin in which they are deficient.
As we witnessed the deceased borne
From the stately homes of Eastbourne
We are calm, for it may safely be assumed
That each lady that we bury
In the local cemetery
Will re-surface – when the body is exhumed.
It’s the mortuary chapel
If they touch an Adam’s apple
After parting with a Bentley as a fee
So to liquidate your odd kin
By the needle of the bodkin
Send them down to sunny Eastbourne by the sea.
Surprisingly, after a 17-day trial for the murder of Gertrude Hullett, the longest murder trial in Britain up to that point, Adams was cleared on the basis that “there was no evidence that a murder had been committed”. Adams celebrated his acquittal with a roast lunch and a bowl of jelly but was subsequently found guilty of forging prescriptions, making false statements on cremation forms and offence until the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1951. His license to prescribe dangerous drugs was revoked and he was struck off the Medical Register by the GMC.
Adams was reinstated as a general practitioner in 1961 and later became president and honourary medical officer of the British Clay Pigeon Shooting Association. He slipped and fractured his hip in June 1983 whilst out shooting in Battle, East Sussex and died in Eastbourne Hospital a few days later.
Despite leaving a will of some £400,000 (the equivalent of £1.3 million today), Doctor John Bodkin Adams’ last car was a far cry from the stunning Rolls-Royces left to him by his “dear patients”. Aged 84, he died the owner of a most ordinary Triumph Dolomite and now it is suspected he could have been responsible for the deaths of up to 160 of his patients.
To learn more about the case, purchase a copy of The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams: A 1950s Murder Mystery by Jane Robins. The book is available through Amazon on Kindle or as a hardcover.
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