The crop haired bully with a God complex
ON the night shift at Airedale General, Anne Grigg-Booth was regarded as the undisputed queen of the wards by hospital staff. Many junior nurses feared the foulmouthed, crop-haired, busy, bossy woman, management respected her toughness and few doctors would dream of arguing with her.
She intimidated some, was considered a bully by others and there were complaints that she frequently swore at work.
But all that mattered to night nurse practitioner, or modern-day ‘matron’ Grigg-Booth, was that everything ran smoothly in the small hours.
Grigg-Booth decided what drugs patients needed and simply took the powerful painkillers she wanted and illegally administered them herself.
‘She had a bit of a God complex and thought she could do anything,’ said one nurse.
It was her patients that ultimately paid the price. She was charged in 2004 with the murder of three elderly women by injecting them with high doses of painkillers.
But exactly how many others died at her hands will remain a mystery. According to police, Grigg-Booth had been ‘behaving out of control’ and there may have been as many as 20 victims during her spree.
She died of an overdose of anti-depressants in 2005, the year before her trial, and with many possible victims cremated, finding scientific evidence to support more murder charges was impossible. Grigg-Booth, the eldest daughter of a London policeman, was a nurse for over 30 years.
Earlier in her career she was widely regarded by colleagues as the ultimate professional, highly efficient and a stickler for the rules at work, if a ‘colourful eccentric’ in her spare time.
Standing a towering 6ft tall, her hair dyed in a variety of colours, in her younger days she arrived at hospital on a motorbike, wearing a silver jump suit. She joined the Airedale hospital in 1977 and wore a cape, jokingly telling people to call her ‘Florence’.
The ‘matron’ even bought her pet parrot onto the wards, her friends called her ‘Big Bird’ and she was known for being a blunt speaker.
NURSINGwas her life – while on holiday in Northern Ireland she was among the first to tend the injured in the Omagh bombing in 1998.
At work she regarded herself as above the rules. She had an inflated sense of her own ability, and didn’t attend some training sessions because she didn’t think she needed to.
And at night on the quiet wards, the matron – ‘utterly convinced of her own clinical prowess’ – believed she carried ultimate authority. That included illegally administering morphine and other powerful painkillers.
Police were eventually alerted in January 2003 after a routine audit at the hospital revealed ‘discrepancies’ in drug prescription. After detectives carried out in-depth investigations into 15 of Grigg-Booth’s patients’ deaths, they charged her.
She denied deliberately killing the victims. In letters to health chiefs she wrote: ‘I never prescribed opiate or other drugs without discussion with a doctor.
‘I took verbal orders in extreme circumstances ... if patients were dying all I wanted was to make sure they were pain free & settled & dying with dignity & with family around.
‘I would not harm anybody and never end somebody’s life.’
But the deaths all followed a similar pattern, said police, and none of the patients that died were ‘at death’s door’.
The married mother of one had separated from her husband, Paul. She had been receiving treatment for depression and was known to have a drink problem – when she turned up drunk at her local police station as part of her bail conditions, she was charged with drink-driving.
She lost her licence and was later caught stealing a bottle of whisky from a shop.
THENIn August 2005 neighbours called paramedics to her rented cottage in Nelson, Lancashire, after finding her on the floor muttering incoherently.
She was taken to hospital but returned home and neighbours raised the alarm once again, the following night.
Police found the body of GriggBooth, an animal lover who lived alone with her cat, parrot and two lovebirds.
Her forthcoming trial was abandoned, along with any hope of discovering what went on as she trawled hospital bedsides in the dead of night.
Anne Grigg-Booth: Feared by junior nurses