Lucy Letby today became the most prolific child killer in modern British history after a jury found her guilty of murdering seven premature babies and
Lucy Letby today became the most prolific child killer in modern British history after a jury found her guilty of murdering seven premature babies and trying to take the lives of six more during a year-long hospital killing spree.
The NHS neonatal nurse, 33, who will likely spend the rest of her life in prison, preyed on babies small enough to fit in the palm of her hand by injecting air into their bloodstreams or feeding tubes, causing them to collapse and die. She attacked twins and murdered two boys out of a set of identical triplets within 24 hours of each other.
Letby cried in court as the first of the guilty verdicts were returned. Her mother broke into a series of anguished sobs which continued even after she had left the court. At one point she cried out: ‘You can’t be serious. This cannot be right’.
The cowardly killer later refused to return to the dock to hear the last of the verdicts – with the judge saying he had no power to force her to come up from the cells.
After each of her murders, Letby appeared ‘animated and excited’, offering to bathe, dress and take photographs of her victims’ bodies. Although her motive remains unclear, the prosecution suggested she got a ‘thrill’ out of ‘playing God’. They also suggested she had been trying to impress a married doctor.
Inside her messy, childlike home, police found a Post-it note on which she had scrawled: ‘I am evil, I did this.’
In one case, a senior nurse on duty had to repeatedly tell Letby to come out of a room where a grieving couple were spending their last moments with their infant son. The father said Letby came in with a ventilated basket and told them: ‘You’ve said your goodbyes. Do you want me to put him in here?’ This prompted his wife to tell her: ‘He’s not dead yet.’
The nurse, a seemingly ‘goofy’, ‘innocent’ young woman who had Disney cuddly toys on her bed, found different ways to inflict indescribable, inhuman levels of pain, with some of her victims breaking into tortured screams that experienced paediatricians had never heard before. Several had to take time off work to recover from the trauma.
She got away with her killing spree despite consultants repeatedly trying to blow the whistle to managers about the spate of deaths on her watch. Dr Ravi Jayaram, a TV medic who appears on This Morning, said he was ‘fobbed off’ by nurses after his email warning about Letby prompted the response: ‘It’s unlikely that anything is going on, we’ll see what happens’.
Families of the babies killed and harmed have demanded a public inquiry into how Letby was able to murder and maim babies for so long. None of the parents had any idea their children had been the victims of foul play until they were visited by police up to three years later.
Police are now reviewing the care of all babies that were admitted to the neonatal units of the Countess of Chester Hospital and Liverpool Women’s Hospital – where Letby also completed two periods of training in 2012 and 2015. They will then examine whether they need to look into any cases in more detail.
Children’s nurse Lucy Letby (pictured in a custody photo, left; and while working in hospital, right) went on a year-long killing spree while working at the Countess of Chester Hospital
Letby – wearing a blue hoodie with the strings covered in pink glitter – is taken from her house in handcuffs after being arrested by Cheshire Police
Letby steps into the police car – telling officers to be careful because she had just had knee surgery
Letby being quizzed in July 2018 by an officer about the rise in deaths on her watch. Letby replies: ‘They told me there had been a lot more deaths and I’d been linked as someone who had been there for a lot of them.’ Asked if she was concerned about the rise in mortality, Letby says – meekly – ‘yes’
A note found in Letby’s house that had the word ‘hate’ circled and added: ‘I am evil I did this’
Letby’s parents, Susan and John, arrive at Manchester Crown Court on August 18. The couple supported her every day in court. A source told the Mail that Letby’s mother was distraught when her daughter was arrested – wailing and crying, even telling police: ‘I did it, take me instead,’ in a desperate bid to protect her
Like fellow nurse Beverley Allitt, who was convicted of murdering four infants at two Lincolnshire hospitals in Lincolnshire, Letby used insulin as one of her attack methods.
On one occasion it was also claimed she murdered a tiny, ten-week premature baby boy because she was angry that one of her friends she was texting did not understand why she was upset at being given a break from working in intensive care following the death of another baby.
In several of the cases, it was suggested Letby attacked the babies because she wanted a married paediatrician, who she insisted was just a close friend but was suspected of having an affair with, to be crash called to the neonatal unit so they could try to save the children together, talk about treatments and sympathise with each other after their deaths.
Professor David Wilson, a leading criminologist, told the Mail that this desperation to be acknowledged at work were signs of a ‘hero complex,’ and narcissism in Letby’s personality.
Placing herself at the centre of a crisis was also indicative of the mental condition, Munchausen’s, he said.
Tragically, even among the survivors there are children who will spend the rest of their lives needing round-the-clock care.
Sources close to the investigation told the Mail that an independent inquiry was needed to get to the bottom of how Letby was allowed to get away with her crimes for so long.
Manchester Crown Court was told that doctors repeatedly went to hospital managers to blow the whistle but it wasn’t until the deaths of two identical triplets in 23 hours in June 2016 that she was finally removed from the ward and the unexpected deaths and collapses stopped.
Even after paediatricians raised their suspicions about her activities, hospital executives initially refused to remove her from the unit. When they eventually did so they chose to give her a desk job in the patient safety department.
Letby appeared ‘animated and excited’ after each murder, offering to bathe, dress and take photographs of her victims’ bodies
Letby in the dock at Manchester Crown Court on the morning of August 10
The nurse was a seemingly ‘goofy’, ‘innocent’ young woman who kept Disney cuddly toys on her bed at home and posters with feel good slogans on the walls
While Letby’s motive is not clear, the prosecution suggested she got a ‘thrill’ out of ‘playing God’. She is pictured on a night out
It is understood Letby was suspended from work when she was arrested in July 2018, but remained on full pay, receiving her estimated £30,000-a-year salary, or a total of around £75,000, until she was sacked when she was charged in November 2020.
A nurse on the unit described the crying of one of Letby’s victims as ‘relentless, almost constant and with no fluctuation’.
Letby, who joined her colleagues on work social events, carried out her first murder the day after returning from a hen do in York.
She also struck before and after a holiday to Ibiza, telling colleagues she was ‘back with a bang’.
After her eventual removal, she went on holiday to Torquay with her parents. She put them through the ordeal of attending each and every day of her trial and then witnessing her eventual conviction.
Mostly, Letby chose to inject babies with air while her colleagues’ backs were turned or they’d briefly popped out to look after another baby.
Sometimes it was an overdose of milk, fed via a tube directly into their stomachs.
Her modus operandi would change according to the opportunities she could create for herself.
Tragically, she learned what police came to know as they investigated her litany of crimes – that it takes both very little time, and very little movement, to cause catastrophic harm to a premature baby.
Letby attacked so frequently, and seemingly so casually, that she didn’t always remember her victim’s name.
To help her remember, she took home scores of confidential medical sheets – not, as she claimed, because she liked to collect paper, but as a trophy so she could put a name to a murder.
In part she was able to go undetected for so long because her colleagues – most of whom innocently counted her as a trusted friend and confidante – could not imagine that a fellow nurse might by killing the babies they were trying to raise from prematurity.
A glance at her 2016 diary – a little girl’s affair with a ‘cute’ doggie picture on the front cover and flower doodles inside – shows she was constantly busy.
There were references to the long shifts she liked to do because she ‘so wanted to help’, to salsa classes with her friends, or else meals followed by late-night cocktails at a bar in Chester.
Texts between Letby and the unnamed doctor were read out in court. They appeared to show the doctor comforting the killer nurse as she feigned upset after the death of one of her victims
And in another exchange over WhatsApp, Letby appeared to chat about her blossoming friendship with the doctor – who prosecutors said she had tried to impress by creating ‘crisis situations’ where they could work alongside each other to save the babies she had poisoned
Amelia Dyer, a Victorian baby farmer, murdered infants in her care over a thirty-year period and is estimated to have had hundreds of victims.
A new investigation will be focused mainly on Liverpool Women’s Hospital, where Letby attended a training course in 2015.
But detectives are also likely to review the records of babies born at the Countess of Chester Hospital where she is already known to have attacked babies in the year from June 2015 to June 2016.
Letby started work there after finishing her nursing degree at Chester University.
The court heard suspicions were first raised about Letby when three babies died in just over a fortnight, in June 2015, a full 12 months before she was eventually removed from the unit.
Managers repeatedly refused to believe Letby was to blame and even tried to have her reinstated on the ward – months after doctors insisted she be removed from frontline duties.
Only when police were eventually called in was Letby finally arrested.
During a text exchange with a friend, Letby denied she and the male doctor were flirting. Letby is pictured pulling a face on a night out
Killer nurse Letby would often pull funny faces for photos while out with friends. Two of her murders took place shortly after returning from a week-long holiday to Ibiza
Letby – who grew up with two loving parents – is pictured as a young girl
A source told the Mail that Letby’s mother was distraught – wailing and crying and even telling police: ‘I did it, take me instead,’ in a desperate bid to protect her.
During the course of their investigation officers discovered two baby boys, from separate sets of twins, had been ‘deliberately’ poisoned with insulin eight months apart.
The results of their blood tests had been missed by doctors who had no idea there was a ‘poisoner at work’.
Both Baby O, a triplet, and his brother, Baby P, were murdered after four paediatricians raised their suspicions about the link between the nurse’s presence and the deaths they had already witnessed.
And even when the lead consultant, Stephen Brearey, went back to management in the hours after Baby P’s death on June 24, 2016, his request to have Letby taken off the neonatal unit was turned down flat.
Letby, whose duvet bore the childlike motif ‘Sweet Dreams’, came to court most days with a comfort blanket and clutched a small, stress toy in her hands while in the witness box.
Over 12 months she murdered five boys and two girls at the Countess, often attacking her victims at night, when there were less staff on duty or their parents had reluctantly left their children’s bedsides to get some food or sleep.
Letby texting a colleague after the death of Baby A
After the deaths of Baby A and Bay C, says: ‘There are no words, it’s been awful’
In this string of messages, Letby tries to suggest the babies’ deaths was linked to health problems
The nurse describes ‘crying and hugging’ the parents of Baby E, who died in her care
Letby celebrated a winning bet on the Grand National shortly after she attempted to murder twin boys
The texts end with Letby crowing that police ‘have nothing or minimal on me’
After killing the newborns, the court heard Letby appeared animated and excited, offering to bathe, dress and take photographs of the deceased infants for their distraught and unsuspecting parents.
She also revelled in their grief, searching for them on Facebook – not only in the immediate aftermath but sometimes months and even years later.
It was a bonus if she could ‘help’ bereaved parents by preparing a memory box for them – hand and foot prints of their lost baby, a photograph of two dead twins laid out in a Moses basket, a condolence card for another baby in time for the funeral.
Calculating Letby covered her tracks by altering handwritten nursing charts or making false entries in the computerised nursing notes to make it seem like a baby was deteriorating or that she was feeding or administering medication to other children in a different part of the unit when her victims collapsed.
She also gas-lighted her colleagues, feigning upset when babies died, or suggesting medical reasons for their collapse or death to deflect blame from her murderous acts.
And when doctors became suspicious, she even tampered with the care of a baby, not involved in the case, so she could make a fake formal complaint to bosses and give herself an ‘insurance policy.’
This diary – as well as the Post-it note inside, was found in a chest of drawers at Letby’s home
The inside of the diary, which was decorated with flowers and pictures of stuffed animals
In one particularly chilling correspondence, Letby wrote a sympathy letter to the family of one of the children she had murdered
In another note, Letby had scribbled a jumble of words, with phrases like ‘love’, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and ‘help me’ written on it
A ‘treasure trove’ of more than 250 confidential nursing handover sheets and handwritten notes of resuscitations were found stashed under her bed by police when they searched her home, which was around a mile from the hospital.
A ‘confession’ in which she described herself as ‘evil’ and wrote: ‘I am awful, I did this’ was also discovered by officers hidden in a 2016 diary.
Photographs of a sympathy card she sent to the parents of a three-month-old baby girl she murdered and a thankyou card received by nurses on the unit from another twin boy she killed were also found by investigators – years after the babies died – on her mobile phone.
Although her motive remains unclear, the prosecution suggested she got a ‘thrill’ out of murdering the children – who were attacked when she was caring for them alone, or when the nurse allocated to look after them was on a break, or doctors were busy with other emergencies.
Police and experts believe she thrived on the power of ‘playing God’ with the lives of the vulnerable infants, enjoying the attention and drama their collapses brought to the neonatal unit.
Police recovered a series of scrawled notes that Letby wrote during her killing spree
On other notes she wrote ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and ‘everything is manageable’
Another piece of paper – which appeared to be an official document – was dotted with love hearts
A corridor within the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit, where Letby worked
Undated handout photo issued by Cheshire Constabulary of a cot where a baby referred to as Child G in the Lucy Letby court case. The black circles were added by the police
During her defence, Letby insisted many of the babies had been born on the ‘cliff-edge’ of life due to their extreme prematurity.
She blamed their deaths and collapses on the medical incompetence of her colleagues, under-staffing and filthy conditions on the unit and said a ‘gang of four’ senior consultants at the hospital ‘apportioned blame’ on her to cover up for the hospital’s failings.
During the trial the jury were shown a striking 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.
Statistics also revealed that the number of deaths on the unit fell back to ‘normal’ or average levels once Letby was shifted into an admin role, in July 2016.
Whereas four babies died in the Countess’s neonatal unit in 2013 and in 2014, the number of deaths more than doubled to nine in 2015 and eight babies died in 2016.
By comparison, the number of deaths fell back to four in 2017 and reduced even further to two in 2018 after Letby was removed from the ward.
None of the parents had any idea their children had been the victims of foul play until they were visited by police up to three years later.
Mr Justice Goss warned Letby he was considering a full life tariff when she is sentenced.
Mr Hughes said he was ‘very happy’ for the parents of Letby’s victims that justice had been done.
But he added: ‘The only thing that would make me happier is if Lucy Letby would tell them why, and reveal some motive for what she’s done because that’s the only time they will really be able to understand.
‘The phrase, ”it’s every parent’s worst nightmare…’ is often thrown around, but this really is every parent’s worst nightmare.’
‘Monster, it fits her, because I can’t think of anything worse. But I don’t want to make today about her because she gets that notoriety and thrives off that. This day is about the parents and getting a foundation to try and move on.’
Mr Blackwell said he couldn’t rule out more charges being brought in the future but dismissed the assertion that today’s convictions were the tip of the iceberg.
‘I am confident in our investigation to date, but we need to satisfy ourselves and the public and any future families that nothing has been missed,’ he added.
‘There are other aspects to this – a number of cases in the coroner’s system have been paused pending the outcome of our criminal investigation, there may well be inquests or further reviews, there could even be potential for other independent inquiries that our team would need to support or inform.
‘In terms of what should have been done, or could have been done, or the time before the police were involved.
‘We would support and aid any further investigation and any lessons that need to be learnt. But that’s for another day and another decision maker in the appropriate Government or authority position.’
He said it would be ‘understandable’ if some of the families of Letby’s victims were angry that the hospital failed to act and remove her from frontline nursing sooner and said the police would support any further enquiries.
‘I would thoroughly support any requests for information because what we all need is for the families to get justice and (to make sure) people are confident in the neonatal care that is supplied by the Countess of Chester and across the NHS,’ Mr Blackwell added.
Letby struck before and after a holiday to Ibiza. Pictured is a bag she brought home from the trip
Letby kept souvenirs from parents, including this card thanking her ‘for looking after us when were at Chester’
A police car outside the Women & Children’s Building at the Countess of Chester hospital when Letby was arrested
Mr Blackwell agreed what Letby had done was ‘beyond comprehension’ and ‘pure evil.’
‘These are defenceless premature babies, they are the most vulnerable people in our society, days, weeks old, they cannot defend themselves,’ he said. ‘It is beyond comprehension and pure evil.’
One father, whose twin sons were attacked but survived, said: ‘The (hospital) management, they need to be held accountable. The doctors raised their concerns, and they didn’t act upon them, they dismissed them. It could have been prevented.
‘If they’d (hospital chiefs) acted on the initial suspicions, then definitely they could have stopped any more babies being attacked. It would have prevented multiple deaths. Investigations could have started and she would have been off the unit.’
He also said he hoped Letby would receive a whole life tariff and never be freed from jail.
Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Evans, the deputy senior investigating officer, added: ‘I hope today’s verdict provides some of the answers to the families and goes some way to providing peace of mind as to what happened to their babies. It’s unimaginable what they are going through, the courage and strength they’ve shown is really overwhelming.
‘Lucy Letby was operating in plain sight, she abused the trust of the people around her, not just the parents, but also the nurses she worked with and regarded as friends.
‘She violated their trust, in their unit, in their profession and ultimately that’s been laid out for everybody to see.’