A British nurse has been found guilty of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six others at the hospital where she worked, making her the country’s worst baby serial killer in recent times.
Lucy Letby, 33, harmed babies in her care by injecting air into their blood and stomachs, overfeeding them with milk, physically assaulting them and poisoning them with insulin, Manchester Crown Court in northern England heard.
In one case, Letby murdered a baby boy, identified as Child E, by administering air into his bloodstream, the UK’s PA Media news agency reported. The next day, she attempted to kill his twin brother, Child F, by poisoning him with insulin.
A court order protects the identity of the children involved in the allegations against Letby, including those who died and survived under her care.
Police found a trove of handwritten notes while searching Letby’s house during their investigation, including one that read: “I am evil I did this.”
She secretly attacked 13 babies on the neonatal ward at the Countess of Chester hospital between 2015 and 2016, Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said in a statement.
Her intention was to kill the babies while duping her colleagues into believing there was a natural cause of death, prosecutors argued.
Pascale Jones of the CPS called Letby’s actions a “complete betrayal of the trust placed in her.”
“Lucy Letby sought to deceive her colleagues and pass off the harm she caused as nothing more than a worsening of each baby’s existing vulnerability,” she said.
“In her hands, innocuous substances like air, milk, fluids – or medication like insulin – would become lethal. She perverted her learning and weaponised her craft to inflict harm, grief and death.”
Victims’ families said they “may never truly know why this happened.”
“To lose a baby is a heartbreaking experience that no parent should ever have to go through,” a joint statement said.
“But to lose a baby or to have a baby harmed in these particular circumstances is unimaginable,” the statement added.
Nurse said ‘I killed them’ in handwritten notes
In 2018 and 2019, Letby was arrested twice by police in connection with their investigation, PA said. She was arrested again in November 2020.
Authorities found notes Letby had written during searches of her address.
“I don’t deserve to live. I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them,” she wrote in one memo, adding in another, “I am a horrible evil person” and in capital letters “I am evil I did this.”
The mother of Child E and Child F said she “completely” trusted Letby’s advice, while giving evidence to the court, according to PA Media.
However, she said she “knew there was something wrong” when her baby, Child E, started screaming in the intensive care unit one night.
It emerged that before Letby murdered Child E, he started bleeding when she tried to assault him.
“It was a sound that should not come from a tiny baby,” the mother told the court. “I can’t explain what the sound was. It was horrendous. More of a scream than a cry.”
There was no post-mortem examination following Child E’s death. The mother said she thought he had passed away from natural causes.
Her twin son, Child F, later survived an attempt by Letby to kill him by insulin poisoning.
Consultants told to apologize for raising concerns
Doctors at the hospital began to notice a steep rise in the number of babies who were dying or unexpectedly collapsing, the court heard.
But concerns raised by consultants over the increased mortality rate of patients under Letby’s care were initially dismissed by the hospital’s management, PA Media said.
In September 2016, Letby filed a grievance against her employers after she was relocated from the hospital’s neonatal ward. She was put back on clerical duties after two male triplets died and a baby boy collapsed on three days in a row in June 2016.
Later that year, she was notified of the allegations against her by the Royal College of Nursing union, but the complaint was later resolved in her favor. Doctors were asked to formally apologize to Letby in writing.
She was scheduled to return to the neonatal department in March 2017, but her return did not take place. The hospital trust contacted the police, who opened an investigation.
‘Heartbroken, devastated, angry’
The UK government has ordered an independent inquiry into the murders, including “how concerns raised by clinicians were dealt with.”
The inquiry will probe into the “circumstances surrounding the deaths and incidents,” the government said in a statement on Friday.
It will also evaluate what actions were taken by regulators and Britain’s National Health Service in response to concerns regarding Letby.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay pledged the voices of parents of the victims “are heard” throughout the inquiry, acknowledging there are many questions to be answered.
“Justice has been served and the nurse who should have been caring for our babies has been found guilty of harming them,” the victims’ families said in a joint statement on Friday.
“But this justice will not take away from the extreme hurt, anger and distress that we have all had to experience,” the statement added.
“We are heartbroken, devastated, angry and feel numb.”
Letby will be sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on August 21.