Lucy Letby Chester nurse charged with murder of eight baby deaths & attempted murder of another 10. Motive unknown.
Charges against Lucy Letby, 30, follow an investigation into a string of unexplained baby deaths at the Countess of Chester Hospital between June, 2015 and June, 2016.
Letby of Hereford had first been detained by Cheshire Police back in 2018 after a spike in the number of deaths at the hospital.
The Chester University graduate, who was once the face of a £3million fundraising campaign and had also worked at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, was re-arrested over the same alleged offenses in 2019 and again earlier this week the UK’s Guardian reports.
Police launched an investigation after the hospital raised concerns at the high number of deaths between March 2015 and July 2016 – which were said to be 10 per cent above average.
Internal inquiry raised questions
An internal inquiry was undertaken where it had been determined premature babies had died following heart and lung failure, but were unusually impossible to resuscitate.
Letby’s friends and family said at the time they were adamant the ‘awkward’ but ‘kind-hearted’ neonatal nurse was innocent.
Speaking after she was arrested earlier this week, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Hughes from Cheshire Police said: ‘It has been more than three years since we first launched an investigation into a number of baby deaths and non-fatal collapses at the neonatal unit at The Countess of Chester Hospital.
‘In that time a dedicated team of detectives have been working extremely hard on this highly complex and very sensitive case doing everything they can as quickly as they can to identify what has led to these baby deaths and collapses.
‘In July 2018, a healthcare professional was arrested on suspicion of murder in relation to the deaths of eight babies and the attempted murder of six babies at the neonatal unit at The Countess of Chester Hospital.
‘She was subsequently bailed pending further enquiries.
‘In June 2019, the healthcare professional was rearrested on suspicion of murder in relation to the deaths of eight babies and the attempted murder of six babies.
Unexplained incidence of baby deaths
‘She was also arrested in connection with the attempted murder of three additional babies.
‘On November 10, as part of our ongoing enquiries, the healthcare professional has been rearrested on suspicion of murder in relation to the deaths of eight babies and the attempted murder of nine babies.’
Police launched an investigation into infant deaths at the hospital in May 2017.
The investigation was later widened to the deaths of 17 babies and 16 non-fatal collapses between March 2015 and July 2016.
The probe came after the hospital raised concerns at the high number of deaths between March 2015 and July 2016 – which was said to be 10 per cent higher than average.
Two babies had passed away at the site in 2013 but by 2015 it had quadrupled to eight.
An internal inquiry was undertaken when medics found premature babies had died following heart and lung failure but were unusually impossible to resuscitate.
A report also found that the infants had unusual blotches on their arms and legs after their deaths.
But a cause of death could not be established and police were asked to look into the case in 2017.
Following her previous arrests, Letby’s £180,000 home in the Blacon area of Chester was searched by police, as was her parents’ in Hereford.
Despite the allegations against her, a friend described Letby as a ‘professional nurse’ who was dedicated to her ‘dream job’ and ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’.
According to those who knew her, Letby was determined to take up nursing after leaving her comprehensive school in Hereford, with the nurse coming to work at Chester Hospital soon after graduating in 2013.
The aspiring nurse was described as ‘geeky’ who always wanted to do good by helping out with charitable causes.
Letby worked at the unit as a student nurse during three years of training before qualifying as a children’s nurse at the University of Chester in 2011. She said she started working at the unit after graduating.
She was the face of a £3million appeal to build a new paediatric unit at the hospital in 2013. But questions were soon raised as to who the hospital had elected to champion their new wing.
Police were called in by the hospital in May 2017 after a 2016 report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health found staffing at the unit was inadequate.
Although the review could not find a reason for the increase in baby deaths between June 2015 and June 2016, it identified a string of concerns, including significant gaps in medical and nursing rotas, insufficient senior doctor cover, poor decision making and a reluctance by some staff to seek advice from colleagues.
Two babies died on the unit in 2013 and three in 2014, but mortality rates jumped to eight deaths in 2015 and by June 2016, five babies had already died that year.
The increased mortality rate prompted the hospital to stop caring for babies born before 32 weeks and to close its three intensive care cots.
Letby is now scheduled to appear at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on Thursday where she faces eight murder charges and 10 of attempted murder.
It remained unclear what could have motivated the nursing progency in choosing to kill her baby victims whose lives were in her hands and whose trust by the hospital and children’s parents had so violently betrayed.