Neonatal nurse Lucy Letby killed premature baby by blowing air into her stomach through a nasal tube, court hears
Lucy Letby, the nurse accused of murdering seven babies, was found with a premature child moments after giving a fatal injection of air in the same room where she poisoned and killed another newborn six days earlier , a court heard today.
The nurse was standing next to crib C, who was only five days old and weighed 2 pounds, when her monitor alarm went off and she said to the rushing co-worker, “He’s fine, he will”.
Baby C died because the air injected into his stomach rendered him unable to breathe and he suffered cardiac arrest, Nick Johnson KC told the jury on the second day of his trial at Manchester Crown Court.
Letby allegedly killed him just six days after her first murder, when she killed another little boy, Child A, and days later attacked her twin sister, Child B, while she was working in the neonatal unit of the Countess of Chester Hospital.
The intensive care nurse was then questioned by police as to why she followed the families of her alleged victims on Facebook – sometimes hours after the children died.
Baby C, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was born prematurely at 30 weeks on June 10, 2015, but despite being in intensive care was in good condition.
On the night of June 14, the nurse assigned to Baby C briefly left the room to go to the nursing station, she heard her alarm go off, so she rushed over.
Mr Johnson said: ‘When she returned to the first room there was Lucy Letby standing next to Child C’s bed’, adding that Letby ‘didn’t have to be there’ and that we had told her several times that she was caring for another, worse baby, in another room during that shift.
He told the jury: “Again, stepping back, you can now see that a pattern was emerging.”
“Lucy Letby was the only person working the night shift when baby C died who was also working one of the shifts when baby A died and her twin sister baby B collapsed.
“What we’re going to see, as we progress, is that Lucy Letby’s method of attacking babies in the neonatal unit was starting to develop.
“She had injected air into the bloodstream of the first twins, Baby A and B, and varied this approach by injecting air into Baby C’s stomach via the nasogastric tube.”
Mr Johnson said an independent pathologist – when reviewing the case – concluded Child C died because his breathing became compromised and he suffered cardiac arrest.
The prosecutor told jurors: ‘If you’re trying to murder a child in a neonatal unit, that’s a pretty effective way to do it. It doesn’t really leave a lot of traces.
He said that on the afternoon of June 14, 2015 – hours after Child C died – the defendant searched Facebook for the youngster’s parents.
Mr Johnson suggested from the schedules that it was ‘one of the first things she did when she woke up’ after finishing her shift around 8am.
Letby allegedly murdered Baby D on June 22, eight days after Baby C, the court heard.
Mr Johnson said: ‘The Crown said this was another case of a child being injected with air into the bloodstream.’ Three children had died and one had a life-threatening episode in the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital over a two-week period. Lucy Letby was the only constant presence.
Children’s nurse Lucy Letby murdered Baby C four days after she was born on June 10, 2015, a jury heads at Manchester Crown Court today.
The infant weighed 2 pounds (800 grams) at birth and was in good condition. However, two days later he received a long line to help him through a period of low blood sugar and on June 13, the least intrusive respiratory support known as Optiflow.
Later that day, nurses found traces of bile in his stomach, potentially an early sign of a gastrointestinal disorder called necrotizing enterocolitis. He received treatment for this and his milk feedings were discontinued. In the evening he was recovering.
Letby was at night that day. She was supposed to be the designated nurse for another baby, but despite being asked by her shift leader to stay with him, she went to Crib C in Daycare 1.
Sophie Ellis, the nurse caring for Baby C, briefly goes to the nurses’ station. While there, she heard Baby C’s monitor sound an alarm. When she entered Nursery 1, Letby was already standing next to the bed.
Letby said to him, “He just lowered his heart rate and saturations” or something similar. Mr Johnson told the jury ‘Baby C was the third baby to suffer serious deterioration in a matter of days…and there was Lucy Letby again.’
Baby C quickly recovered, but collapsed again soon after. In doing so, Letby tells Nurse Ellis, “He’s leaving.” “She was right,” Mr Johnson said.
It later emerged that Letby had texted someone on furlough to say she had wanted to be in Room 1 because it would be cathartic for her – would help her well-being, to see living in the space previously occupied by a dead baby, Baby A’.
Experienced medics were unable to resuscitate Baby C, but he was pronounced dead at 5:58 a.m. on June 14.
Dr. Dewi Evans, the expert who reviewed the case, expressed concern about the cause of Baby C’s sudden deterioration. In light of other cases he reviewed, he deemed it suspicious. . He also believed that the damage to his heart was the result rather than the cause of his collapse.
Dr. Sandie Bohin believed that the only possible mechanism for the excess air in the baby’s gut as it collapsed was the deliberate injection of air into its bloodstream.
Mr Johnson said: ‘So it was a variation or refinement of a theme that Lucy had started with the twins Baby A and Baby B’.
Letby, 32, is believed to have committed a year-long string of murders while working at the Countess of Chester’s Hospital – including a child who died less than 90 minutes after coming into his care.
She is accused of killing seven premature babies – and attempting to kill ten others – attempted up to three times to poison infants by injecting insulin, milk or even air in their tiny bodies, a court heard yesterday.
The specially trained intensive care nurse has been described as a ‘constant malevolent presence’ at the Cheshire Children’s Unit where she is believed to have killed and injured scores of vulnerable children – including twins. She is accused of using night shifts to launch numerous attacks because she knew parents were unlikely to visit the neonatology ward.
Several babies were allegedly poisoned with insulin and one child – known as Baby E was murdered when Letby allegedly injected him with air, Manchester Crown Court heard.
This caused what doctors call an air embolism, which leads to strokes or heart attacks. Letby is also accused of pumping dangerous levels of milk into premature infants via feeding tubes or veins.
She is said to have targeted twins on more than one occasion – and in some cases one of them was murdered and her brother survived. Letby was questioned by police in interviews about why she followed the families of her alleged victims on Facebook, with prosecutors saying it was an “unusual interest”.
Opening the prosecution, Nick Johnson KC, said: ‘Sometimes a baby she managed to kill wasn’t killed the first or even the second time she tried. He added: “Sometimes they were injected with air – both intravenously [into the blood] and via nasogastric tube [into the stomach]. Sometimes they were injected with milk or some other liquid.
Sometimes it was insulin. But the constant presence was Lucy Letby’.
Police discovered ‘a poisoner was at work’ in the NHS neonatal unit after a ‘significant increase’ in the number of healthy babies dying or falling ill as a nurse accused of killing seven children and attempted to kill ten others worked in the department between June 2015 and June 2016, the jury was told on the first day of his trial. She faces 22 charges relating to 17 babies, some of whom allegedly attempted to kill multiple times.
Letby pleaded not guilty to each charge yesterday morning.