London: British nurse Lucy Letby was jailed for life on Monday, with no prospect of release, for murdering seven babies and trying to kill another six at the hospital where she worked in northwest England.
Here are details about Letby, one of the country’s worst serial child killers, and the case:
Who is Lucy Letby?
Letby, 33, was born in Hereford in central England. She completed a nursing degree at Chester University in northwest England and after qualifying, she began to work in the neonatal unit of the city’s Countess of Chester Hospital.
What is the case about?
Over 18 months from January 2015, there was a significant rise in the number of babies dying and suffering serious collapses at the neonatal unit of the Countess of Chester Hospital.
Senior doctors became worried as many of the babies had deteriorated suddenly and unexpectedly, and then did not respond to appropriate resuscitation. Other babies, who suddenly collapsed and did not die, recovered, with both their collapse and recovery defying usual medical norms.
The police and medical experts were called in and as they looked for a cause, they eventually focused on one common factor - Lucy Letby.
She was first arrested in July 2018, and then again in June 2019 and November 2020 when she was charged with murdering seven babies and attempting to kill another 10 between June 2015 and July 2016.
What was Letby accused of doing?
Prosecutors said Letby attacked 17 babies who had been on the ward. Some she was said to have poisoned with insulin.
Mostly she was accused of injecting air into their bloodstream or stomachs, or giving them excessive milk.
The victims included twins and triplets, and in one case, she killed two siblings on consecutive days. The youngest baby she murdered was just a day old. The oldest was 11 weeks old, a baby girl who she attacked four times before succeeding in killing her.
Although the babies had been born prematurely, some were regarded as being in reasonable or good condition before they suddenly deteriorated, mainly during night shifts when Letby was working.
Letby attacked a number of the babies shortly after their parents had left their bedside, prosecutors said.
She denied any wrongdoing and blamed the hospital and doctors working there. But a jury convicted her of seven murders and seven attempted killings. Two of the attempted murder convictions refer to the same baby.
She was acquitted of two charges of attempted murder while jurors could not agree on six other suspected attacks.
Why did Letby attack the babies?
Police said they had been unable to find a motive for the attacks. “Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll ever know unless she just chooses to tell us,” said Detective Superintendent Paul Hughes, who led the investigation.
The judge, James Goss, who sentenced her to prison for the rest of her life, said there had been “a deep malevolence bordering on sadism” in her actions.
“It is no part of my function to reach conclusions as to the underlying reason or reasons for your actions. Nor could I for that they are known only to you,” he said.
“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 no remorse.”
What was Letby like?
Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Evans, the deputy senior investigating officer, described Letby as “beige”.
“She had a healthy social life, she had a circle of friends, she had her parents and holidays, and there isn’t anything unusual in any of that, there isn’t anything that we have found that has been unusual,” Evans said.
Are there other victims?
Police said they were reviewing Letby’s career prior to the period covered by the charges, at the Countess of Chester Hospital and at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital where she had spent part of her training.
Detectives are looking at the more than 4,000 admissions made into the two hospitals’ neo-natal units from 2012 to 2016.
“Only those cases highlighted as concerning medically will be investigated further,” Hughes said.
What have the families said?
The court heard emotional, heart-wrenching statements from each of the parents of those she murdered and tried to kill, recounting the trauma and “excruciating agony” she had caused.
“Lucy Letby has destroyed our lives. The anger and the hatred I have towards her will never go away,” the father of the triplets said in a statement.
A mother of twins, one of whom was murdered while the other survived, said she hoped Letby lived a long life, spending every day suffering for what she had done.
“My family will never think of you again. From this day, you are nothing,” the mother said.
What did PM Rishi Sunak say?
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said her failure to hear the impact of her actions first hand was “cowardly”.
While the current law says judges can increase jail terms on those who fail to appear, the government is considering making attendance compulsory.
“That’s something that we’ll bring forward in due course,” Sunak said.