Nurse goes on trial accused of killing seven babies and attempting to kill a further ten

Mick the Ram

Mick the Ram

A deeply disturbing court case, which could take six months to conclude has begun, with a nurse standing trial accused of killing seven babies and attempting to kill a further ten, on the neonatal unit (NNU) of the hospital at which she worked.

Lucy Letby, 32 from Hereford, is said to have “poisoned” the infants, in a period between June 2015 and June 2016, at the Countess of Chester hospital, just outside the city of Chester. Ms Letby, wearing a dark blue suit with a black blouse, denied all the charges when read out to her at Manchester Crown Court, on 10 October.

Prosecutor begins his address

In his opening address, prosecutor Nick Johnson KC, explained how the hospital was a typically busy general hospital, just like many others throughout the UK. However, the difference at this hospital was there was a “poisoner at work within the NNU.” He explained that prior to January 2015, mortalities of premature, or vulnerable babies at the Countess of Chester were comparable to other units around the country; but then suddenly there was a significant rise.

Unexpected deterioration in the babies

Hospital consultants began to become aware and very concerned that the babies who were dying, or suffering alarming collapses, had all deteriorated unexpectedly. Some who had collapsed it was said, had “defied normal experience” of the treating doctors. Babies who had not been unstable at all quickly deteriorated, and sometimes a baby who had been sick, but then was on the mend suddenly deteriorated once more, for no apparent reason, the jurors were told.

Normally it was explained, babies might suffer from heart problems, infection, or dehydration. However, under normal circumstances when a medical intervention was undertaken a positive reaction would be expected. Despite appropriate actions being carried out, sadly in many of these cases, that was not the outcome.

Lucy Letby the common denominator

Following a painstaking review, it emerged that there was one common denominator in all 17 cases being investigated and that was the presence of one neonatal nurse on duty each time, and that nurse was Lucy Letby.

Over the investigated period there were between 25 and 30 nurses, along with 15 nursery nurses, working in the NNU. As a general rule of thumb, there were more nurses working on the day shift, meaning as a consequence, there were fewer people around at night. It is alleged Ms Letby used the night shift to launch her “attacks” because parents were sleeping or were off the ward.

Deliberately poisoned by lethal injection

It became clear that the only logical explanation and conclusion to draw was that all these babies had been poisoned deliberately, by the injection of lethal amounts of insulin, milk, or even air into their tiny bodies. “This was no accident,” Mr Johnson stressed, before continuing to highlight that the individual responsible had to come from a very limited number of people, due to the fact that the NNU is closely restricted for obvious reasons.

He then pointed out that many of the initial events happened on the night shifts under Ms Letby’s watch, and when she moved on to day shifts, the collapses and shocking deaths inexplicably suddenly started occurring then too.

Constant malevolent presence

He was able to inform the court that sometimes the babies were injected with air, either intravenously into the blood, or via the nasogastric tube into the stomach; others were injected with insulin, milk, or some other fluid. He added that there was a “constant malevolent presence” in the hospital’s NNU when things took a turn for the worse for the 17 children, of which five baby boys and two baby girls were unable to recover. “They were all the work of the woman in the dock,” were the closing words presented to the jury.

Family members listen as children’s names read out

Family members of some of her alleged child victims sat in the public gallery listening as the names of the children, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were read out. A court order prohibits the media from reporting the identities of either the surviving infants, or those who died.

The accused had her parents in court watching on. She was standing in the glass-panelled dock, as the fourteen jurors who will eventually decide her fate were sworn in to hear the beginning of what is going to be a mammoth and very difficult to hear trial.

Judge instructs jury with words of wisdom

The trial judge, Mr Justice Goss, addressing the jurors said that as all the charges in the case related to babies, he accepted that they would have anxiety or apprehension regarding their role, as it was bound to provoke an instinctive reaction of horror. It would be, he pointed out, “part of our characteristics as a human being.”

He then instructed them to put their emotions to one side and consider all the evidence presented to them, calmly, rationally, fairly, and dispassionately; whilst retaining their knowledge and understanding of human behaviour.

Independent doctors commission review

It was officers from Cheshire Constabulary who were commissioned to carry out a detailed review by experienced doctors with no connection to the Countess of Chester Hospital. It is unclear just when police were able to pinpoint Ms Letby as a suspect in the deaths, but shortly before she was arrested, the hospital placed her on suspension, before bringing her back into an administrative-type position.

Seemingly perfect fit

On the face of it, Ms Letby has the appearance of a the average happy-go-lucky young woman. She graduated from Chester University and has raised lots of money for charities. Stunned friends have insisted that she “wouldn’t even hurt a fly.” Seemingly she was the perfect fit to be a caring neonatal nurse. Neighbours from her time growing up have been left staggered as they recall a “sweet little girl who became a lovely woman.”

Makes no sense at all

It is baffling to try an comprehend how anybody could carry out such unbelievable acts, but from somebody so highly thought of in her community, makes it all the more of a mystery and until all the evidence is heard and sentencing concluded, she should in all fairness be presumed innocent.  

Diana would be heartbroken

The hospital itself started life as the West Cheshire Hospital, back in the sixties, then on 30 May 1984, West Cheshire Hospital was officially renamed the Countess of Chester Hospital by the then Prince Charles and Diana, who as a couple were obviously then the Prince and Princess of Wales and as such, also the Earl and Countess of Chester; hence the name.

Now there is a woman who would be mortified beyond belief and heartbroken at the fate which befell these poor babies.

The case continues.


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