Angel of Death: Mum of nurse sentenced to 30 years for murder of four elderly patients opens up on battle to clear son's name
By Mark McGivern on 26/01/15Share:
“HOW would you feel if people branded you the mother of the Angel of Death?”
The stark question reflects the grim reality which confronted June Morrison on the day her son was found guilty of killing four women and trying to kill a fifth at two hospitals in Leeds.
Colin Norris was compared to serial killer GP Harold Shipman and it was claimed his murder spree was motivated by a twisted hatred of old women.
June sat in the public gallery of Newcastle Crown Court in 2008, hearing her nurse son branded “a thoroughly evil and dangerous man” and a “determined killer”.
And she struggled to reconcile the monster depicted as her own flesh and blood, the son who had made her so proud as he grew to be a success in his chosen profession.
She says now: “There is only black and white. Either I am the mother of Scotland’s worst serial killer or mother to the victim of the country’s most terrible miscarriage of justice.
“But I know the truth and I believe that we will eventually be able to prove that is the case.
“The thing with Colin’s conviction is that the evidence is purely circumstantial. There are no witnesses who saw him doing anything, no physical evidence with syringes.
“The prosecution claim Colin’s shifts fitted a pattern which pointed to him being the common denominator but I believe it can now be proven that natural causes could have been involved with all the deaths.”
June, who lives in Milton, Glasgow, with Colin’s stepfather Raymond, recalls the day in 2002 when her son phoned to say he was to be charged with the murder of Ethel Hall, whose death formed the cornerstone of the prosecution case.
She said: “He was devastated, he could hardly talk but we drove down to Leeds thinking that things would be sorted out fairly quickly. I honestly never thought, right up to the verdict, that Colin would be found guilty. That was probably naive.
“He never did anything violent in his life and he had dedicated his life to helping others. I know he could never have done what he was accused of.”
June said the claim Norris hated old women was ludicrous. She said: “I had to work when Colin was a baby so he was brought up largely by his gran in the early years and they are so close. He phones her every Sunday without fail.
“When he moved to Leeds he stayed with an old lady in her seventies, Nan, and he would take her to the bingo and to the pub. He was the type who actually had a right good laugh with old people.”
June recalls one early bus trip back from Newcastle six years ago, where she overheard two women’s conversation about her 37-year-old son.
She said: “They were reading a newspaper story about the so-called Angel of Death and I could hear them saying that they should bring back hanging for people like that.
“My blood froze. I wasn’t able to say anything at the time, I just took it. Needless to say I’m no supporter of the death penalty. If we had it in Britain Colin would be dead now.
June said she has learned to be cautious with the optimism arising from new medical evidence that is being evaluated by the Criminal Cases Review Commission ahead of a potential appeal.
She said: “The Panorama programme was important for us and he received lots of letters from people who came to the conclusion after watching it that he was innocent.
“Colin wrote back to every writer personally and he was frustrated that some didn’t include their names and addresses because he wanted to write to them to to say thanks for taking the time.
“He told me even if two or three people watched that programme and decided that he didn’t do the terrible things he is convicted of, it will give him great heart.”
June, a 58-year-old secretary, stresses that everything about her son’s previous life was ordinary, far from the one he lives now at Category A Frankland prison in County Durham.
He is confined there alongside several notorious killers, such as Soham paedophile Ian Huntley and psychopath Michael Stone, the crazed murderer of Lin and Megan Russell.
June speaks to her son most days and travels once a month to visit him at Frankland. She said: “I go through all the different emotions. It can leave me numb when I think of my son living his life in that prison. He doesn’t belong there.”
Norris’s day to day existence in the jail involves the constant potential of violence and intimidation.
June said: “He goes to the gym two or three times a week and keeps in shape.
“He doesn’t have the bulging neck or anything but he is quite muscled in his arms. He is not a violent person and he hates confrontation but he is in a Category A prison and he has to stand his ground in certain situations.
“He only wants to get through his days with as little fuss as possible, without falling out with anyone, just getting by.”
June admits her whole existence is now dedicated to obtaining what she sees as justice for her son.
She said: “My life has effectively been put on hold while Colin is in jail. I don’t think of the future other than where Colin will be and how any appeal will go.
“Colin and I talk every day. We still manage to have a laugh but I know he doesn’t tell me the grim stuff. I still have a lot of tearful times but not as many as before. The early days were very bleak.
“If he serves a full 30-year term, Colin will be 63 when he is released and I’ll be in my 80s. But he would rather die in prison than say he is guilty of crimes he didn’t commit.
June believes her son’s case is a classic case of medical science relying on a premise that will be proven to be flawed.
She said: “Hopefully new science that is emerging quite clearly now will be accepted as the better science.
“We hope the CCRC will take it on board and see that it presents an entirely credible case for there being no perpetrator or killer in relation to these deaths.”