Lucy Letby, a British nurse who worked in the neonatal unit at Countess of Chester Hospital in northwest England, was found guilty on Friday of murdering seven premature newborns and attempting to murder six others. The trial, which began last October, horrified the British public.
She injected air into their blood or stomach. A British nurse was found guilty on Friday, August 18, of killing seven premature newborns in the hospital where she worked and attempting to murder six others, following a lengthy trial that horrified the British public.
“Cold, calculating, cruel, and tenacious” according to the prosecution, 33-year-old Lucy Letby worked in the intensive care unit at Countess of Chester Hospital in the city of Chester, in northwest England.
Between June 2015 and June 2016, seven premature babies died suddenly, without an obvious reason, sometimes just hours apart. Ten other babies came close to death, again without an obvious reason, but were saved.
The young woman, who claimed her innocence, will learn her sentence at a later date. She was accused of injecting air into the newborns’ veins, using their nasogastric tubes to send air or an overdose of milk into their stomachs. She allegedly added insulin to feeding solution bags, dislodged the respiratory tube of a premature baby, and overfed a small victim through a tube. And sometimes, she combined multiple attacks.
On Friday, the British government ordered an independent investigation into the “circumstances surrounding the horrific murders and attempted murders of babies.” It is designed to help “ensure that families get the answers they need.”
This 33-year-old woman, who claimed her innocence, will learn her sentence on Monday. She was absent from the court on Friday.
She killed, then assisted desperate parents
At the time, she was 25 years old. She was the only medical staff member on duty during the sudden deterioration of the newborns, emphasized Judge James Goss, before the 12 jurors began deliberating on July 10.
She was accused of trying to kill some of them on multiple occasions, and 22 charges were brought against her, seven for murder and 15 for attempted murder of ten babies.
The trial began on October 10 in Manchester. The babies were identified only by letters, from A to Q, to protect the families. Parents testified, sometimes in tears.
The defense described Lucy Letby as a “dedicated” professional. “My work was my life,” she insisted.
Prosecutor Nick Johnson meticulously reconstructed her schedule and the similarities between the deaths. He explained that Lucy Letby attacked the babies after their parents left, when the responsible nurse was away, or at night when she was alone. She would then sometimes join collective efforts to save the newborns, or even assist desperate parents.
Among the victims were twins and even triplets, two of whom died within 24 hours of each other after her return from vacation in June 2016. The third was spared, as his parents begged for him to be transferred to another hospital.
At that time, having killed without drawing attention, she became “uncontrollable,” the prosecutor claimed. “She thought she was God.”
A severely premature baby, attacked three times in September 2015, is now severely disabled.
“I don’t deserve to live. I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to take care of them. I’m a horrible person,” the nurse wrote on a post-it note found in her home in 2018. In other documents, however, she claimed her innocence.
Her lawyer, Ben Myers, argued that the neonatal unit in 2015-2016 “admitted more babies than usual, with greater care needs,” and had “failed” to meet those needs. He denounced the lack of evidence against his client, claiming that incompetent doctors had made her a scapegoat.
In his closing argument, he denounced a “presumption of guilt.”
According to the prosecution, Lucy Letby also falsified some medical notes to confuse the investigation.
During the trial, a mother described how, when she returned to bring milk to one of her premature twins at 9 p.m. in August 2015, she heard him screaming and discovered blood around his mouth. She was reassured by Lucy Letby, who advised her to go back to her room.
According to the prosecution, the nurse had just pushed medical equipment down the tiny baby’s throat and injected air into it. He died a few hours later, after losing a quarter of his blood.
Transferred to an administrative role in June 2016, arrested for the first time in 2018, then in 2019, Lucy Letby was finally imprisoned in November 2020.