Britain's most notorious serial killer, Harold Shipman, died today after hanging himself in his cell at Wakefield Prison in West Yorkshire.
He was found at 6.20 a.m and despite the efforts of staff who immediately attempted resuscitation, he was pronounced dead by a doctor at 8.10 a.m., a spokeswoman said.
Family doctor Shipman was convicted in 2000 of murdering 15 of his patients and was sentenced to life in prison. An inquiry later ruled that he had murdered at least 215 of his patients with diamorphine injections.
Shipman hid himself behind a window curtain where he was found hanging, the Prison Officers' Association said.
General secretary Mr Brian Caton said the serial killer was checked in his single cell frequently through the night and was alive and well at 5 a.m. But, at the 6 a.m. check, Mr Caton said: "He'd hung himself from a ligature, thought to be strips of bedding, and had held the curtains around himself so no one could see him."
Mr Caton added: "It would appear that Shipman settled in well at Wakefield. He hadn't been on a suicide watch at all and wasn't on a suicide watch at the time that he took his life.
"He was housed in a normal wing in a normal location, was checked regularly in accordance with the routines at Wakefield," Mr Caton said.
He added: "Whilst it's a loss of a human life, it's a loss of one of the vilest humans in the country."
Shipman's killing spree ran from 1975 to 1998. Of his victims, 171 were female and 44 male; the oldest victim was a 93-year-old woman and the youngest a man of 41.
The inquiry found that Shipman had murdered his victims quietly, coldly and systematically, killing patient after patient in a betrayal of trust "unparalleled in history".
His motives remained a mystery and he had consistently refused to confess to any of the murders.
Prisons minister Mr Paul Goggins announced that a full investigation into the death would be carried out by Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Stephen Shaw. It will begin tomorrow.
His death will end relatives' hopes of ever knowing why the bespectacled monster killed their relatives over a 23-year period in Hyde, Greater Manchester, and Todmorden, West Yorkshire.
Mrs Jayne Gaskill, from Hyde, whose 68-year-old mother Bertha Moss died at the deadly doctor's hands, said: "He has won again. He has taken the easy way out.
"He has controlled us all the way through and he has controlled the last step and I hate him for it."
Mrs Thea Morgan who lost her 90-year-old mother Dorothea Renwick, said: "I want to see the end of him but I think he should have stayed in his cell and rotted."