Lucy Letby has been found guilty of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six others on a neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.
The 33-year-old “is now the UK’s most prolific child killer of modern times”, said Sky News, after she was convicted at Manchester crown court of what prosecutors called the “persistent, calculated and cold-blooded” murders of premature infants.
Bereaved parents “gasped and wept in the public gallery as the verdicts were delivered over several dramatic days”, said The Guardian. The judge had issued reporting restrictions until the end of the trial, so they only became public today.
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Letby was found guilty on seven counts of attempted murder of six children – two counts related to attempts to murder the same child – and not guilty on two more. The jury was unable to reach verdicts on six counts of attempted murder.
Since Wednesday, Letby “has refused to appear in the dock for the verdicts”, said the BBC, but she “broke down in tears as the first guilty verdicts were read out by the jury's foreman on 8 August after 76 hours of deliberations”.
The verdicts bring to an end a nine-month trial at Manchester Crown Court that spawned two podcasts and captured the attention of millions of people around the world.
Who is Lucy Letby?
“Growing up in the cathedral city of Hereford on the England-Wales border, Lucy Letby was the quiet unassuming schoolgirl with long blonde hair that had always wanted to be a nurse,” said The Times. She was described by friends as one of the “geeky girls” and part of a group who called themselves the “miss-match family”.
She attended a comprehensive school before enroling at the University of Chester to study nursing. There, she was “always the first home on a night out, taking her studies seriously”, said the paper. Now, she is “suspected of being one of the country’s most prolific child killers”.
Letby joined the hospital at the centre of the murder case after graduating and also “spent time at the unit during her training”, said The Telegraph.
According to the Daily Mail, Letby had “a clean record with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and was even the face of a campaign to raise £3 million for the unit”. In an interview with the Chester Standard for an article about the hospital’s 2013 Babygrow Appeal to fund a new neonatal unit, Letby said her role involved “caring for a wide range of babies requiring various levels of support”.
Letby worked at Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit from 2011 up until her arrest in 2018. An investigation was launched at the hospital in 2017 following 15 deaths and 17 life-threatening incidents involving babies between June 2015 and June 2016.
The hospital had carried out a number of independent expert medical reviews into the deaths before calling in police, amid concerns about the neonatal unit’s high mortality rate. It found that “doctors had begun to note similarities in the deaths of the infants” and recommended “a thorough, external independent review of each neonatal death between January 2015 and July 2016”, reported The New York Times.
DCI Nicola Evans, the deputy senior investigating officer on the case, told Sky News that no motive has ever been established, which “must be really hard for families to accept”.
“I don't know whether we will ever be able to answer that question, and only Lucy Letby can answer that,” the officer added.
The prosecution’s case
Opening the prosecution, Nick Johnson KC said the collapses and deaths of all 17 children concerned between June 2015 and June 2016 were not “naturally occurring tragedies”.
“They were all the work, we say, of the woman in the dock, who we say was the constant malevolent presence when things took a turn for the worse for these 17 children.”
Many of the babies were believed to have been injected with air or insulin. And the prosecution said Letby wrote notes reading “I am evil” and “I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough”. The passages were written on Post-it Notes following a search of her home. Another said: “I haven’t done anything wrong and they have no evidence so why have I had to hide away?”
Hospital managers repeatedly attempted to reinstate Letby to her role, despite suspicions that she may have been involved in the deaths of multiple babies, the court heard.
On the final day of his closing speech, Johnson said Letby had “revelled” in the pain she inflicted on the grieving parents of one child she had attempted to kill three times before succeeding on a fourth attempt.
Ultimately, said Johnson, the seven babies would have “gone home” if Letby had not “sabotaged them”.
The defence’s case
In his closing remarks, defence barrister Ben Myers KC claimed there was “no direct evidence” Letby had harmed anybody and that the deaths were due to “serial failures in care” at the hospital, not murder.
The defendant “shed tears” as Myers said the case was “driven by a relentless presumption of guilt”, said the BBC’s Daniel O'Donoghue.
Speaking on the stand earlier in the trial, Letby claimed four hospital consultants conspired against her to “cover failings at the hospital”. And in a bid to explain the Post-it Notes, she told the jury she was not referring to murdering the children, but rather that she had “somehow failed in my duties, in my competencies”.
“I had been taken away from the job I loved and accused of things I just hadn’t done,” she told the court.
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