Ministers order urgent inquiry into the failings that allowed ‘evil’ Lucy Letby to murder babies on an NHS hospital ward during a terrifying 12-month killing spree
- Inquiry ordered into Countess of Chester Hospital where Letby killed babies
Ministers tonight ordered an urgent inquiry into the shocking failings that allowed an ‘evil’ killer nurse to murder seven premature babies on an NHS hospital ward.
Lucy Letby’s crimes make her the worst child killer in British history.
The 33-year-old faces dying behind bars after being convicted of murdering the infants and trying to kill six more during a deadly 12-month spree at the neo-natal unit of Cheshire’s Countess of Chester Hospital, where she worked. After the guilty verdicts:
- Senior doctors who flagged concerns insisted babies’ lives would have been saved if hospital bosses had acted sooner;
- Up to ten chances were missed to stop Letby harming and killing children;
- Police said the care of 4,000 babies was now being reviewed and that more charges could follow;
- The babies’ families said ‘hateful’ Letby had ‘taken everything’ from them;
- They demanded a public inquiry so hospital bosses would be compelled to explain why she was allowed to kill for so long;
- The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman said ‘significant improvements to culture and leadership’ in the NHS were needed;
- Letby will be sentenced on Monday and faces a whole life tariff, meaning she will never be freed;
- The Government pledged to change the law after it emerged Letby will refuse to come up from the cells to hear her fate;
- Mystery remains over her motive, with experts suggesting she had a ‘hero complex’ and harmed the babies to impress a married doctor she was suspected of having an affair with.
Ministers tonight ordered an urgent inquiry into the shocking failings that allowed ‘evil’ killer nurse Lucy Letby (pictured) to murder seven premature babies on an NHS hospital ward
Immediately after the guilty verdicts were announced, Health Secretary Stephen Barclay (pictured) announced a non-statutory inquiry to examine why Letby was allowed to get away with murder for so long.
Manchester Crown Court was told that Letby attacked her tiny victims ‘in plain sight’ – injecting air into their bloodstreams or feeding tubes, causing them to collapse and die. She also poisoned them with insulin, overfed them milk and rammed hard plastic tubes or medical instruments down their throats. One infant suffered a ruptured liver at her hand – a violent injury likened by experts to injuries seen in road accident victims.
READ MORE: Parents of babies murdered by Lucy Letby describe ‘eight years of torture’ after neonatal nurse was convicted of hospital killing spree – as police launch new probe into 4,000 other newborns in her care
Doctors repeatedly went to managers to try to blow the whistle but their concerns were dismissed. It wasn’t until the deaths of two identical triplets in 23 hours in June 2016 that Letby was finally removed from the ward and the unexpected deaths and collapses stopped.
Tonight paediatrician and TV medic Dr Ravi Jayaram said lives could have been saved if hospital bosses had acted sooner.
‘I do genuinely believe that there are four or five babies who could be going to school now who aren’t,’ he told ITV. Dr Jayaram said executives warned medics the reputation of the hospital would be damaged if they went to police, and consultants were even ordered to apologise to Letby for ‘victimising’ her – or face being referred to the doctors’ watchdog, the General Medical Council.
His colleague, Stephen Brearey, head of the neo-natal unit, accused bosses of attempting a ‘cover-up’. Immediately after the guilty verdicts were announced, Health Secretary Stephen Barclay announced a non-statutory inquiry to examine why Letby was allowed to get away with murder for so long.
The minister said it would look at the handling of concerns raised by staff and what action was taken by regulators and the wider health service to ensure ‘vital lessons are learned’ and get ‘parents and families the answers they need’.
But families insisted a full public inquiry, which has the power to compel witnesses to attend, was needed to ensure the hospital bosses, some of whom have retired or left the NHS, were forced to explain why they failed to act sooner.
One father, whose twin sons were attacked but survived, said: ‘The (hospital) management, they need to be held accountable. If they (hospital chiefs) had acted on the initial suspicions, they could have stopped any more babies being attacked. It would have prevented multiple deaths.’
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Rob Behrens also called for ‘significant improvements to culture and leadership’ following the guilty verdict.
Killing spree comes to an end: Lucy Letby, in a tracksuit, opens the door to police officers at 6am on July 3, 2018
Handcuffed: Letby is led away from her three-bedroom home in Chester, which is two miles from the hospital
Driven away: The killer nurse is placed in the back seat of a police car as officers searched her home
He added: ‘Those who lost their children deserve to know whether Letby could have been stopped and how it was that doctors were not listened to and their concerns not addressed for so long.’ Police said their inquiries were ongoing and Letby could be charged with more crimes.
According to the BBC, Letby was on duty for another six baby deaths at the Countess, not included in the trial, and two babies also died while she was working at Liverpool Women’s Hospital. One source close to the investigation told the Mail: ‘We don’t believe that Baby A, the first victim in the charges, was the first child attacked.’
The trial, which ran for more than ten months, is thought to be the longest murder trial in British criminal history. The jury heard that, over the course of 12 months, between June 2015 and June 2016, at least ten chances were missed to stop Letby’s killing spree.
Crucially, doctors failed to appreciate the significance of blood test results from two baby boys – treated eight months apart – which proved beyond doubt that someone on the ward was poisoning children with insulin.
THE CHARGES AND THE VERDICTS
Count 1 Murder of Baby A – Guilty, majority verdict
Count 2 Attempted murder of Baby B – Guilty, majority verdict
Count 3 Murder of Baby C – Guilty, majority verdict
Count 4 Murder of Baby D – Guilty, majority verdict
Count 5 Murder of Baby E – Guilty, majority verdict
Count 6 Attempted murder of Baby F – Guilty, unanimous
Count 7 Attempted murder of Baby G – Guilty, majority verdict
Count 8 Attempted murder of Baby G – Guilty, majority verdict
Count 9 Attempted murder of Baby G – NOT guilty
Count 10 Attempted murder of Baby H – NOT guilty
Count 11 Attempted murder of Baby H – Hung
Count 12 Murder of Baby I – Guilty, majority verdict
Count 13 Attempted murder of Baby J – Hung
Count 14 Attempted murder of Baby K – Hung
Count 15 Attempted murder of Baby L – Guilty, unanimous
Count 16 Attempted murder of Baby M – Guilty, majority verdict
Count 17 Attempted murder of Baby N – Guilty, majority verdict
Count 18 Attempted murder of Baby N – Hung
Count 19 Attempted murder of Baby N – Hung
Count 20 Murder of Baby O – Guilty, unanimous
Count 21 Murder of Baby P – Guilty, majority verdict
Count 22 Attempted murder of Baby Q – Hung
Letby denied killing or attacking any children. She said it was just an ‘innocent coincidence’ that she was on duty each time a baby collapsed or died and claimed a ‘gang of four’ senior consultants, including Dr Brearey and Dr Jayaram, conspired to blame her to cover up for failings at the NHS Trust.
But the jury of seven women and four men disagreed. They took more than 110 hours to convict her. Their verdicts were delivered over a period of ten days, but the trial judge imposed reporting restrictions, meaning they could only be reported yesterday.
Cowardly Letby, an only child, was not in the dock when the final verdicts were revealed, having refused to come up from the cells. However, she previously broke down in tears and sobbed when the foreman delivered the first guilty verdicts on August 8.
She later stared at the floor, while her mother, Susan, 63, cried and wailed ‘You can’t be serious’ and ‘this can’t be right’, when more guilty verdicts, including the first murder conviction, were returned three days later. Letby’s retired retail manager father, John, 77, comforted his wife, then held his head in his hands.
Yesterday it emerged ministers plan to introduce new laws forcing offenders to be present in court for their sentencing after Letby indicated to her legal team that she would also not be in the dock to hear Mr Justice Goss deliver her fate on Monday. Her absence also means she will avoid hearing the victim impact statements from the babies’ parents, who are expected to explain how her crimes have destroyed their lives.
In a joint statement, read on their behalf yesterday by Janet Moore, a police family liaison officer, the parents said they were ‘heartbroken, devastated, angry and numb’. ‘To lose a baby is a heart-breaking experience no parent should ever have to go through, but to lose a baby or to have a baby harmed in these particular circumstances is unimaginable.’
Calculating Letby covered her tracks by altering nursing notes. She also gaslighted her colleagues, feigning upset in text messages when babies died, or suggesting medical reasons for their collapse to deflect the blame.
She also took home souvenirs of her killing spree. A treasure trove of more than 250 confidential nursing handover sheets and handwritten notes of resuscitations were found stashed under her bed when police searched her house.
Officers also discovered a ‘confession’ on a green Post-it note, which said: ‘I am evil, I did this,’ and ‘I will never have children or marry or know what it’s like to have a family’. Photographs of a sympathy card she sent to the parents of a three-month-old baby girl she murdered, and a thank you card from the mother and father of another twin boy she killed, were also found by investigators – years after the babies died – on her mobile phone.
During the trial the jury was shown a chart highlighting the 38 nurses who worked on the unit, correlated with 25 ‘events’ – significant collapses or deaths of babies. It showed a long column of ‘x’s’ below Letby’s name, indicating she was the only one on duty for all 25 incidents. By comparison, no other nurse was present on more than seven occasions.
The number of deaths on the unit fell back to normal or average levels when Letby was shifted into an administration role, ironically in the risk and patient safety office, in July 2016.
In total, Letby, of Hereford, was convicted of 14 charges – seven of murder and seven of attempted murder – against 13 victims. She was cleared of two attempted murder charges, relating to two different baby girls, Baby G and Baby H. And the jury failed to reach verdicts on another six attempted murder charges relating to four babies. None of the babies or their parents can be named for legal reasons.
Detective Superintendent Simon Blackwell, of Cheshire police, said what Letby had done was ‘beyond comprehension’ and ‘pure evil’.
Pascale Jones, a senior lawyer with the Crown Prosecution Service, said Letby ‘weaponised’ her nursing skills to repeatedly attack and kill. She ‘betrayed’ the trust of the children’s parents and deceived her hospital colleagues, who had no idea there was a ‘murderer in their midst’.
Dr Nigel Scawn, medical director at the Countess of Chester Hospital, said: ‘We are extremely sorry that these crimes were committed at our hospital and our thoughts continue to be with all the families and loved ones of the babies who came to harm or died.’
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