British neontal nurse found guilty of killing 7 babies
LONDON (AP) — A neonatal nurse in a British hospital was found guilty of killing seven babies and trying to kill six others.
Lucy Letby, 33, was charged with murder in the deaths of five baby boys and two girls, and the attempted murder of five boys and five girls, when she worked at the Countess of Chester Hospital in northwest England between 2015 and 2016.
She was accused of deliberately harming the newborn infants in various ways, including by injecting air into their bloodstreams and administering air or milk into their stomachs via nasogastric tubes.
She was also accused of poisoning infants by adding insulin to intravenous feeds and interfering with breathing tubes.
Letby denied all the charges.
A jury of seven women and four men deliberated for 22 days before reaching the verdict. One juror was excused well into deliberations for personal reasons and the judge later gave the remaining 11 jurors the option of reaching a verdict with 10 people in agreement instead of a unanimous decision.
Letby was found not guilty on one charge of attempted murder and the jury could not reach a verdict on several others.
Some of the verdicts were announced in court earlier in the month, but the judge imposed a ban on reporting them until deliberations were complete. Letby fought back tears on Aug. 8 as the jury found her guilty of two counts of attempted murder and burst out crying as she left the courtroom. She had more recently declined to be in the courtroom as additional verdicts were announced.
During the lengthy trial, which began last October, prosecutors said the hospital in 2015 experienced a significant rise in the number of babies who were dying or suffering from sudden deteriorations in their health for no apparent reason. Some suffered “serious catastrophic collapses” but survived after help from medical staff.
They alleged that Letby was on duty in all the cases and described her as a “constant malevolent presence” in the neonatal unit when the children collapsed or died. They said the nurse harmed the babies in ways that did not leave much of a trace, and that she persuaded her colleagues that the collapses and deaths were normal.
The first baby allegedly targeted by Letby was a boy born prematurely who died when he was a day old, in June 2015. Prosecutors alleged the nurse injected air into his bloodstream.
Police launched an investigation into the baby deaths at the hospital in May 2017. Letby was arrested three times in connection with the deaths before she was charged in November 2020.
Prosecutors said a Post-It note found at Letby’s home after she was arrested in 2018 on which she wrote “I am evil, I did this” was “literally a confession.”
Her defense lawyer argued she was a “hard-working, dedicated and caring” nurse who loved her job and that there was not enough evidence of her carrying out any of the alleged harmful acts.
The lawyer said the infants’ sudden collapses and deaths could have been due to natural causes, or in combination with other factors such as staffing shortages at the hospital or failure by others to provide appropriate care.
He also claimed that four senior doctors pinned blame on Letby to cover up failings in the neonatal unit.
Letby testified for 14 days, denying all accusations she intentionally harmed any baby.
“I only ever did my best to care for them,” she testified. “I am there to care not to harm.”
She sobbed at times and defended the collection of medical records she kept at home on some of the babies in her care.
“I don’t deserve to live,” she wrote on a green Post-it note shown in court. “I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them.”
“I am a horrible evil person,” she wrote. “I AM EVIL I DID THIS.”
Her lawyer defended the notes as the anguished writings of a woman who had lost confidence in herself and blamed herself for what had happened in the ward.
“One note says ‘not good enough,’” defense lawyer Ben Myers said. “Who did she write that for? She didn’t write that for us, the police or these proceedings. That is a note to herself. Writing for herself.”