Richard Shepherd’s career saw him work on some of the most high-profile cases of the past 30 years, such as Harold Shipman and Stephen Lawrence. But it came at a terrible personal cost, he says
When Richard Shepherd was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2016, the mental health nurse told him he was really worried. “Most people say they’re going to commit suicide,” the nurse said, “but you actually know what to do.”
Shepherd’s career as one of the UK’s most distinguished forensic pathologists saw him involved in disasters from the Hungerford shootings to the Bali bombings, and in high-profile cases from Harold Shipman to Stephen Lawrence. His daily life was made up of blood-spattered corpses and formalin-soaked dissections, anguished relatives and scornful barristers. But it wasn’t a particular incident that left him immobilised by dread, struggling with sleep and plagued by panic attacks. Instead, it was the gradual accumulation of stress from 30 years confronting violence and the grave, the steady buildup of emotional damage from putting 23,000 dead bodies under the knife.