Neonatal nurse arrested for killing 8 babies could be Britain's most prolific child killer if convicted
The arrest came after a year-long investigation into the babies' deaths and 15 non-fatal collapses that took place in the neonatal unit-
A neonatal nurse in the UK has been arrested on suspicion of killing eight babies and attempting to kill six more. She is currently being investigated by the authorities at a second hospital where she worked. 28-year-old Lucy Letby was arrested by the police on July 3 in an investigation into her connection to the deaths of 17 babies at the Countess of Chester Hospital between 2015 and 2016. Authorities were spotted searching her £180,000 home and a blue tent was seen outside reports the Daily Mail. Her parents' home in Hereford was also searched.
Officers arrived at Letby's three-bedroom semi-detached home on July 3. The home is located less than a mile from the hospital where Letby worked as a neonatal nurse. Officers were then seen removing items from inside the home. One of the neighbors said: "I was woken by a police car arriving. This is a very quiet road and you don't expect it to happen right on your street."
The arrest came after a year-long investigation into the babies' deaths and 15 non-fatal collapses that took place in the neonatal unit. On July 4, the Liverpool Women's Hospital said it was cooperating with the police in the on-going investigation. Letby had graduated in 2011 and had just recently finished a work placement at the hospital so she could receive extra training.
If Letby is convicted of killing eight babies in the trial, she will be known as Britain's most prolific child killer followed by the likes of Beverly Allitt (aka The Angel of Death), Myra Handley and Ian Bradey, and Robert Black. The Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust wrote in a statement: "A healthcare worker currently involved in a police investigation undertook placements at Liverpool Women's during their training. We are co-operating with police as part of their investigation which includes a routine review of patients cared for in our neonatal unit during the time of these placements. There is currently no suggestion that any patients at Liverpool Women's came to any harm in relation to this investigation."
Letby started working at Chester Hospital after she graduated from the Chester University in 2011. She has been described by many who know her personally as awkward but kind-hearted. She doesn't have a smidge of dirt on her record with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and had even once been the face of a campaign to raise £3 million for a new pediatric unit at the hospital. She said at the time: "I enjoy seeing them progress and supporting their families."
A friend of the neonatal nurse described her as "professional nurse" who is dedicated to her "dream job" and that she "wouldn't hurt a fly". The unnamed friend said of Letby: "We're still reeling from it to be honest. Even after sleeping on it I think everybody around here is still in a state of shock and disbelief. Lucy was doing the job she dreamed of doing and appeared nothing but dedicated and professional. You can't imagine her hurting a fly let alone defenceless babies."
A neighbor who lives on the same street said: "I can't add much more to what's been already said about her. I knew her when she was a little girl and she was as sweet as anything. I've seen her grow up and she seemed a lovely woman. So this is news is deeply and utterly shocking. I can't fathom it. When you hear of these sort of things, you always get one or two people saying 'I thought there was something fishy about them'. But with Lucy all you will hear is positive things."
A worker in a shop that is close to where the family stays said: "They pop in now and again and they are a very polite family. They all seem very friendly and normal. It's shocking as its a nice area and we rarely see police around here."
Neil Fearn from Pryers Solicitors represents a family of one of the babies that died at the neonatal unit said: "We are hopeful that the investigation can provide answers for the families of these children." The authorities are detaining Letby on suspicion of murder and this has suggested that she is being suspected of intending to kill the babies instead of it being about incompetence or an accident. The Countess of Chester Hospital carried out their own expert medical reviews into the baby deaths before they got the police involved.
It was reported that the neonatal nurse was quite determined to get into the nursing line after she left her comprehensive school in Hereford. She has been described by those close to her as "geeky" and always being the Good Samaritan. Jordan Sands, a person who knows Letby through a former girlfriend, said: "She was quite awkward and geeky but seemed like a kind-hearted person." One more friend, who wished to stay anonymous, said that she was an "amazing person".
Detective Inspector Paul Hughes, the man leading the investigation, said that Letby's arrest was a "significant step forward". He said that the amount that was investigated in the case had grown since the police got involved and that they were currently looking into the care being given to 32 babies, of which 17 have tragically died.
The hospital's medical director, Ian Harvey, said that he is sure the neonatal unit is safe now that Letby has been arrested. The unit is reportedly on the same level as a level 1 special care unit for babies.
The authorities were summoned to the hospital in May last year after a devastating report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in 2016 showed that the staffing unit for neonatal care was inadequate. The review was not able to find any reason for the rise in baby deaths from June 2015 to June 2016 but it did find a multitude of concerns. This includes the 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 passed away in the unit during 2013 and three of them died in 2014. Mortality rates, however, skyrocketed to eight deaths in 2015 and by the time June 2016 rolled in, five babies had already died in that year. This resulted in the hospital to cease all care for babies born under 32 weeks and the three intensive care cots were closed. The Times reported that Letby had been transferred from her duties in the clinic late in 2016. One member of staff said: "They moved her into admin, they didn't move her to another nursing position. If they did think she was suspicious why didn't they suspend her [?]."
DI Hughes said that the case was "highly complex and very sensitive". He said: "We recognize that this investigation has a huge impact on all of the families, staff, and patients at the hospital as well as members of the public. Parents of all the babies are continuing to be kept fully updated and are being supported throughout the process by specially trained officers. This is an extremely difficult time for all the families and it is important to remember that, at the heart of this, there are a number of bereaved families seeking answers as to what happened to their children."
Neighbors living close to Letby's parents were completely shocked to find out that the "very career-driven" woman they know was arrested for such a serious crime. They said that she was determined to get a job in the NHS. Prosecutors working with some of the devastated parents said that they were "hopeful the investigation can provide answers".
The authorities said that the investigation is still on and that if anyone has any information they should immediately contact Operation Hummingbird detectives or Crimestoppers.