On 18 March 1957 Eastbourne GP Dr John Bodkin Adams was charged with the murder of Edith Alice Morrell.
With more than 12 deaths among Adams' patients, a file had been prepared for the director of public prosecutions. After consideration, the prosecution decided to proceed with the case of Edith Morrell.
Another case was kept in reserve and made the subject of a second indictment.
After a sensational month-long trial, Adams was acquitted. He resigned from the NHS and on 26 July pleaded guilty to minor charges relating to drugs, death certificates and forging NHS prescriptions. He was fined£2,400 and on 22 November was struck off the medical register.
Adams, a bachelor and teetotaller, was described as 'fairly well to-do' with a passion for cars. When arrested he had four in his garage. Commentators at the time noted two characteristics - one was his prolific use of addictive drugs such as heroin and morphia for patients and the second was his acute interest in his patients' wills. As far back as 1935 a patient had made Adams an executor of her will and left him£3,000, which was unsuccessfully contested by the woman's family. Police estimated that the flow of bequests was worth£3,000 a year to the GP. In his book, Easing the Passage, Patrick Devlin suggests there was no evidence to show that Adams offered to reduce his fees in order to accept a legacy.
The words 'easing the passage' were those used by Adams to the police when questioned about Mrs Morrell.
After the trial, Adams successfully sued several newspapers. Four years later he was restored to the medical register and continued to practise in Eastbourne. Many of his patients continued to see him and he still received legacies. When he died on 5 July 1983 his estate was worth£402,970.