MANCHESTER, England – The nurse who led “a campaign of violence” and enjoyed “playing God” has been found guilty of murdering seven babies at a hospital – making her the United Kingdom’s most prolific child serial killer.
Lucy Letby, 33, was also convicted of trying to kill six other babies at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit during a yearlong killing spree between June 2015 and June 2016.
The trial shared shocking details of how a total 17 babies – all but one premature – were allegedly murdered or injured by Letby, described by the prosecution as a “devious”, “calculating” and “cold-blooded” killer.
She attacked infants by injecting insulin, milk or air into their tiny bodies, leading to their sudden collapse. She was accused of physically assaulting one baby and causing a liver injury akin to a road traffic collision.
Letby took four attempts to kill one baby girl, attacked three sets of twins, twice murdering one twin, and murdered two triplets within 24 hours of each other.
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She denied the 22 charges against her – seven counts of murder and 15 counts of attempted murder – but was convicted on 13 charges after the jury had deliberated for more than 99 hours.
Letby was found not guilty of two attempted murder charges, and the jury was undecided on further attempted murder charges relating to four babies.
The verdicts were delivered in three stages over a series of days, causing Letby to break down in tears. She refused to appear in the dock for the final verdicts.
Prosecutors told the jury that Letby was a “constant, malevolent presence” at the hospital’s neonatal unit when the trial opened at Chester Crown Court in October.
They claimed she was the “common denominator” and that the baby’s deaths coincided with her shifts.
Babies who had not been unstable “suddenly severely deteriorated” while others who had been sick and recovered, suddenly deteriorated “for no apparent reason.”
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Letby was variously accused of “getting a thrill” out of murdering babies, “playing God” and killing one infant because she wanted to get the attention of a doctor she had a crush on.
Prosecutors described her as an “opportunist” who had targeted sick children while she was alone with them and used their vulnerabilities to “camouflage” her attacks, which had “patterns” or similarities.
They claimed she was caught red-handed on two occasions, once by a mother whose baby son was murdered and another time by a doctor as she tried to murder a baby girl.
However, Letby was able to get away with her crimes for so long, the jury heard, because colleagues simply could not contemplate there was a murderer on the unit.
She was eventually removed from front-line duties in July 2016 when doctors raised concerns about her involvement in baby deaths and first arrested her two years later in 2018.
A “confession” Post-it note, found by police at her home, read, “I don’t deserve to live. I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them.”
She added, “I am a horrible evil person” and: “I AM EVIL I DID THIS.”
Letby carried out social media searches of babies’ parents and was accused of being “a killer who was looking at your victims.”
However, she denied harming babies and told the jury, “I only ever did my best to care for them.”
She claimed the babies were the victims of poor care and accused a “gang of four” consultants of a conspiracy to cover up failings at the neonatal unit.
And a system that wanted to apportion blame, it was claimed, she became the “obvious target.”
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For legal reasons, the babies – who were referred to as Child A to Child Q in evidence – their parents and some witnesses could not be identified.
In heartbreaking testimony, some parents described seeing their babies collapse.
One mother, according to the prosecution, had unknowingly interrupted Letby as she was in the process of killing one of her newborn twin sons – Child E – by injecting him with air on Aug. 4, 2015.
The woman recalled the “horrendous” screams and seeing blood around his mouth and “feeling frightened” because she knew something was “very wrong.”
Letby told the panicked mother that the bleeding was caused by a feeding tube rubbing her baby’s throat and “got rid” of her by saying, “Trust me, I’m a nurse.”
However, Child E suffered significant blood loss, and when the mother later returned to the neonatal unit, she found medics desperately trying to resuscitate her son, to no avail.
Letby attempted to kill the boy’s brother – Child F – the following day by injecting insulin into a nutrition bag, but he survived.
She later showed “unusual interest” in the twins’ family, the jury heard, with many social media searches of them following Child E’s death, including on Christmas Day.
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The jury was told how a “smiling” Letby spoke to the mother of Child I after murdering her at the fourth attempt by injecting air into her feeding tube and bloodstream on Oct. 23, 2015.
The mother had witnessed medics trying to resuscitate her baby, and after she died, Letby asked if she wanted to bathe her daughter’s body and offered to take photos for her to keep.
Letby also later sent a sympathy card to the girl’s grieving parents just hours before her funeral, which contained the message, “Your loved one will be remembered with many smiles.”
The prosecution claimed a “completely out of control” Letby went on a “murder spree” in June 2016 after returning from holiday to Ibiza, Spain.
She murdered two triplet boys, Child O and Child P, and allegedly attempted to murder another baby boy, Child Q, over three successive days.
Letby had already “got away” with so much already, the prosecutor said, it gave her “the misplaced confidence” she could do what she wanted.
Prosecutors claimed that when Letby spoke to a colleague about Child P and asked, “He’s not leaving alive is he?” it was because she knew what was going to happen.
“She was controlling things. She was enjoying what was going on and happily predicting something she knew was going to happen,” said prosecutors.
“She, in effect, was playing God.”
Prosecutors claimed her “campaign of violence” went undetected for so long because Letby’s colleagues had not contemplated the remotest possibility of a nurse killing babies, and her methods left little trace.
They said she was “calculating and devious” and had “gaslighted” staff by persuading them what they knew to be “utterly abnormal” was “just a run of bad luck.”
Giving testimony, Letby denied “getting a thrill” from the “grief and despair” of parents whose children she murdered.
When asked for their motive, she replied that “I believe to cover failings at the hospital.”
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Meanwhile, her lawyers argued that babies had received “sub-optimal” care, and it was “unfair and inaccurate” to blame her.
The prosecution’s case, it was claimed, was “fueled” by a presumption of guilt. They described Letby as a hardworking and dedicated nurse who “loved” her job and also pointed out that she worked on the unit for years and treated hundreds of children prior to the alleged events.
Her behavior did not change, they argued, and the more likely reason babies had collapsed or died was their health or condition, staffing pressures, failings in care, and the unit taking on too many babies with high care needs.
In a statement, Pascale Jones, of the U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service said, “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.
“In her hands, innocuous substances like air, milk, fluids – or medication like insulin – would become lethal. She perverted her learning and weaponized her craft to inflict harm, grief and death.”
The statement noted, “Time and again, she harmed babies, in an environment which should have been safe for them and their families.”
It went on, “Her attacks were a complete betrayal of the trust placed in her. My thoughts are with families of the victims who may never have closure, but who now have answers to questions which had troubled them for years.”