Outrage as life insurance firm DeadHappy uses serial killer Dr Harold Shipman in advert

An image of Britain's worst serial killer, Dr Harold Shipman, has been used to promote a life insurance company Credit: Handout

A life insurance firm has defended using the UK's most prolific serial killer in an advert after it was branded "beyond despicable".

DeadHappy, which is based in Leicestershire, used an image of Dr Harold Shipman, who was suspected of killing up to 250 patients during his time as a GP in Hyde, Greater Manchester.

Alongside an image of the former GP, the firm wrote: "Life Insurance. Because you never know who your doctor might be."

The city centre-based firm defended its publication and said it wanted to "make people stop and think".

The advert caused outrage after Britain's most prolific serial killer popped up on people's Facebook pages.

Shipman was found guilty of murdering 15 patients under his care in January 2000, and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole life order.

He was found dead in his cell in Wakefield Prison in 2004, aged 57, having committed suicide.

A family member of one of his victims saw the advert and hit out claiming the stunt was "despicable".

Tim Hill wrote on Twitter: "As someone whose relative was murdered by Harold Shipman, your latest advert utilising his image is despicable and unacceptable.

"I hope you enjoy yet another judgement from ASA and change your practices.""This is NOT ok," another person wrote. "Who approved this advertising?! It's a real Facebook advertisement for a real-life insurance company. It’s horrendous," they added.Another said: "As a brand, they have always tried to be edgy and a little controversial but this goes way too far.

"So triggering for the families and anyone abused by a medical professional! That's disgraceful. So disrespectful to the victims' families."

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) watchdog said it was reviewing more than 50 complaints about the ad.

The DeadHappy advert featuring Dr Harold Shipman has been slammed by other industry firms. Credit: BPM MEdia

DeadHappy, based in Mansfield Street, has previously published controversial adverts, boasting a strapline of 'Life insurance to die for'.

Andy Knott, founder of the company, has defended the stunt but said their intention is not to offend people but make sure they are protected with life insurance.

He said: "We're not simply disruptive, we’re just trying to make better products in order to close the gap.

"We are called DeadHappy and our strapline is ‘Life insurance to die for’ so we are aware of the provocative (and to some the very shocking) nature of our brand."But being provocative is different to being offensive and it is of course never our intention to offend or upset people.

"It is our intention to make people stop and think. If however you have been personally distressed by this advert we do sincerely apologise."He added: "Death is still a taboo subject in our society, which is why we feel so passionately about 'changing attitudes to death'.

"We do take risks with our brand and sometimes we may step over the line, whatever or wherever that line may be, and whoever chooses to draw it."

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