Review – Insulin Murders by Dr. Vincent Marks and Caroline Richmond

By | 5 June, 2009
Don't, or indeed do, judge it by its cover

Don’t, or indeed do, judge it by its cover

When I was first diagnosed a few years ago I tried my hardest to think whether there were any benefits of being insulin dependent. I hummed, I harred, I looked up learned books and journals and could find virtually none.

But then it hit me! I would now have virtually untapped access to insulin, the perfect murder weapon. Think of the havoc I could reek – old scores settled, slights avenged – revenge is, after all, a dish best served cold. Virtually undetectable in the victim, insulin would be the ideal weapon for slaughter.

Or so I thought until I read Dr. Vincent Marks’ highly interesting Insulin Murders – an exhaustive account of the most well known and notorious murders, and apparent murders, carried out through the medium of insulin.

I have to confess that true crime is not really one of my favourite genres and so I wasn’t expecting much from the book; but in fact I was pleasantly surprised by Marks’ interesting and detailed descriptions of murder most foul which avoided sensationalism and the grisly voyeurism I perhaps expected.

As an expert in diabetes and the effects of hypoglycaemia, Marks’ was often called as an expert witness in the various cases covered by the book and so is able to give a vivid first hand account of what went on. While Marks’ can from time to time get a little carried away with his facts, figures and differences between varying types of assaying techniques; but thankfully his co-writer Caroline Richmond – a medical journalist – moves the narrative back to the people, personalities and motives, which are of course far more interesting.

The cases covered include the infamous case of Claus von Bülow, who was found guilty of killing his wife by administering an overdose of insulin in 1980. However, at his re-trial the conviction was overturned partly on the basis of Marks’ expert testimony.

Of equal interest is the case of Dee Winzar, a nurse who was accused and convicted of the murder of her paraplegic husband Nic McCarthy. Marks’ argues, however, that the evidence presented at the trial was deeply flawed and explains in great detail why he thinks Winzar was wrongly convicted. His carefully thought out and argued position is fascinating and does make you strongly believe Winzar’s conviction was unsafe.

I genuinely enjoyed Insulin Murders, it is a combination of forensic medicine, law and people’s motives to murder told by an expert in his field who had first hand experience of the crimes committed. It was also a salutary lesson in the over-reliance on potentially-flawed medical evidence in trials and also that insulin is very far from being the perfect murder weapon, thanks to men like Dr Vincent Marks.

Insulin Murders by Dr. Vincent Marks and Caroline Richmond
Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd; ISBN-10: 1853157600

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About Tim

Diagnosed with Type One when he was 28, Tim founded Shoot Up in 2009. For the diabetes geeks, he wears a Medtronic 640G insulin pump filled with Humalog and uses Bayer’s Contour Next Link blood glucose meter.

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