Clinical Negligence & Catastrophic Injury Solicitors
Neonatal nurse Lucy Letby sentenced to whole-life term
Neonatal nurse, Lucy Letby, will never be released from prison after being given a whole-life jail tariff for the murder of seven babies in her care.
Letby, 33, who committed the crimes at Countess of Chester Hospital was also convicted at Manchester Crown Court of trying to kill another six babies between June 2015 and June 2016. She is Britain’s worst child serial killer in modern times.
Letby, who worked at the hospital between 2012 and 2016, refused to leave the court cells as the parents of her newborn victims described the terrible effects of her crimes.
A father, sobbing, said the murder of his two identical triplet sons had torn his family apart, leaving him suicidal and ruining their trust in medical professionals. He said: “It has destroyed me as a man and as a father.”
A number of Letby’s surviving victims have been left with life-changing disabilities. One girl, now seven, is blind and has been diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. She is nil-by-mouth and requires major spinal surgery.
Her father described how his daughter born 15 weeks early, weighed 535g (1lb 3oz) and was given just a 5% chance of survival. He told told the court that “God saved her” but then “the devil found her.”
The judge, Justice James Goss KC, described Letby’s crimes as a “cruel, calculated and cynical campaign of child murder involving the smallest and most vulnerable of children.”
He said: “There was a deep malevolence bordering on sadism in your actions. During the course of this trial you have coldly denied any responsibility for your wrongdoing and sought to attribute some fault to others. You have shown no remorse. There are no mitigating factors.”
Letby often attacked the babies moments after their parents or nurses had left their sides. She fatally injected seven infants with air, tried to kill two others by lacing their feeding bags with insulin and attempted to murder one by thrusting a nasogastric tube down his throat.
The judge said she had a “detached enthusiasm” for the resuscitation of babies fighting for life and “acted in a way that was completely contrary to the normal human instincts of nurturing and caring for babies”. She “cruelly and callously” made inappropriate remarks to parents or colleagues during, or after, a death.
He added: “There was premeditation, calculation and cunning in your actions. There is no doubt that you are intelligent and outwardly were a very conscientious, hardworking, knowledgeable nurse, which enabled you to harm babies for some time.”
He told her that she had kept hundreds of medical documents as “morbid records of the dreadful events surrounding your victims and what you had done to them” and added that it was not for him to “reach conclusions about the underlying reasons” for her actions. “Nor could I, for they are known only to you.”
The motivation behind the murders is unclear and may never be known. Prosecutor, Nicholas Johnson KC, told the trial that Letby enjoyed “playing God” and was “excited” by the drama when doctors rushed to save the days-old babies she had attacked.
Justice Goss said she appeared to take a particular interest in twins. Three pairs of twins and one set of triplets were among her 13 victims, and in babies born with vulnerabilities.
The case also highlighted concerns about the actions of hospital executives who were alleged to have failed to act on fears raised by medical staff that Letby was harming unfants in her care which allowed her go kill two more babies.
The prosecution’s key medical expert, Dr Dewi Evans, 74, a consultant paediatrician, said executives were “grossly negligent” for not acting on fears about the nurse and should be investigated by police for corporate manslaughter.
Instead, the Observer newspaper revealed that managers blamed other NHS services for many of the unexplained deaths and declared in a two-page review in May 2016 that there was “no evidence whatsoever against [Letby] other than coincidence.”
By that time, senior doctors had raised the alarm for months after the nurse had murdered five newborns and attempted to kill another five. She went on to kill two triplet brothers and tried to kill an eighth baby the month after this document was produced.
Senior doctors first reported Letby’s link to unusual deaths and collapses to executives on 2 July 2015, after three babies died and another suffered a near-fatal deterioration in just two weeks the previous month.
Several consultant paediatricians raised the alarm a number of times during the next year as the number of suspicious incidents grew and Letby was found to be present at all of them.
However, executives failed to launch a formal investigation until July 2016, more than a year after the link with Letby had first been raised. She was removed from the unit that month but the police were not contacted until May 2017.
Dr Evans, who gave evidence in court about each of Letby’s 13 victims, said that three murders could have been prevented if hospital bosses had acted more urgently after on the concerns of medical staff.
He said more should have been done when Letby’s first three victims died within 14 days in June 2015 and again when twins were attacked in August, one fatally and the other injected with insulin.
Evans, a National Crime Agency-accredited expert who has given medical evidence in hundreds of cases since 1988, said he would ask Cheshire constabulary to investigate the hospital management’s “grossly irresponsible” failure to act.
He said: “They were grossly negligent. I shall write to Cheshire police and ask them, from what I have heard following the end of the trial, that I believe that we should now investigate a number of managerial people in relation to corporate manslaughter. The police should also investigate the [hospital] in relation to criminal negligence.
“Failing to act was grossly irresponsible – let’s make it as clear as that. We are talking about a serious emergency. It’s grossly irresponsible and, quite frankly, unbelievable [that they failed to act sooner].”
Dr Evans called for the police investigation after being told about the two-page review in May 2016. By this point, senior doctors had been asking for “urgent” meetings with executives for months to discuss their concerns after five murders and the attempted murder of another five babies.
But nothing appears to have happened until the two-page document was produced in May 2016, effectively clearing Letby of any wrongdoing and blaming other NHS services for the deaths. Letby went on to murder two newborn triplet brothers and attempt to kill a sixth child the following month.
The review, made public for the first time, states: “LL works full time and has the qualification in specialty. She is therefore more likely to be looking after the sickest infant on the unit. LL also avails herself to work overtime when the acuity or unit is over capacity.
“There are no performance management issues, and there are no members of staff that have complained to me or others regarding her performance. I have found LL to be diligent and have excellent standards within the clinical area.”
It goes on to state that there had been a higher death rate on the unit in the year to May 2016 but blamed other NHS services for a number of the mortalities: “The Cheshire and Mersey transport service have been involved in a few of these mortalities and they may have survived if the service was running adequately.
“Alder Hey children’s hospital’s failure in facilitating a cot also added to the complexities of these mortalities. If there had been a bed sooner the infant may not have died.”
Several of the executives involved, who have now left the Countess of Chester hospital, said they would cooperate fully with the independent inquiry.
Executive medical director of The Countess of Cheshire hospital NHS foundation, Dr Nigel Scawn, said: “I speak for the whole Trust when I say how deeply saddened and appalled we are at Lucy Letby’s crimes. Our thoughts continue to be with all the families and loved ones of the babies who came to harm or died.”
Meanwhile, a senior manager in charge of nursing during Letby’s murders, Alison Kelley, has been suspended from her new role as director of nursing for Rochdale Care Organisation, part of the Northern Care Alliance, "in light of information" that emerged during Letby’s trial.
In another development, the lead consultant on Lucy Letby's neo-natal ward, Stephen Brearey, accused hospital managers a 'cover up' in a bid to hide the killer's actions from police after he, TV's Dr Ravi Jayaram and five other doctors were forced to apologise to her.
He accused managers at the NHS trust of 'engineering the narrative' to prevent police finding out about suspicious deaths.