She loved salsa dancing and nights out with friends. She had wall art with slogans like ‘Happy prosecco season’ and ‘Leave sparkles wherever you go’. Yet, behind Lucy Letby’s ordinary, girl-next-door veneer, operated the mind of a monster. This is the story of how, in the words of a Senior Crown prosecutor, Letby ‘perverted her learning and weaponised her craft to inflict harm, grief and death’.
Four inexplicable events
On 8th June 2015, staff at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit were shocked by the sudden deterioration and death of a baby who had been born premature but initially in good, stable condition. The collapse occurred shortly after care of this child had been transferred to 25-year-old nurse Lucy Letby, and doctors were taken aback by the strange, patchy, pink-and-blue discolouration of the baby’s skin.
As the Letby trial later heard, the mottling of this infant, known as ‘Baby A’, ‘proved to be the first of a series of similar presentations on the skin of babies suddenly and catastrophically collapsing’ at the unit, and was a sign of air being injected directly into their bloodstreams.
The very next day, the infant’s twin sister, known as ‘Baby B’, collapsed with a similar skin discolouration, but was successfully resuscitated. Yet another unexpected event occurred on 14th June, with the dramatic deterioration of ‘Baby C’. Despite not being his designated nurse, Letby was seen standing by his cot during the collapse.
The baby did not survive and it was later shown he had air pumped into his stomach through his nasal gastric tube. Later that same month, ‘Baby D’ inexplicably suffered repeated collapses and died. Lucy Letby texted a colleague, musing on the deaths of sick babies, writing ‘I think there is an element of fate involved. There is a reason for everything’.
‘Not nice Lucy’
The string of deaths and collapses in June, so unusual for the neonatal unit, prompted head consultant Dr Stephen Brearey to carry out a review in early July. This was when Letby – a well-liked staff member who’d been the public face of a hospital fundraising campaign – was first identified as the common factor in the collapses. Brearey later remembered thinking, ‘It can’t be Lucy. Not nice Lucy.’
As one hospital source later told The Independent, ‘Although the association with Letby’s [presence] was seen, nobody was really thinking about somebody causing deliberate harm.’ She was therefore free to continue working on the unit, and to continue killing the smallest, most vulnerable patients imaginable.
She also became experimental, using different methods in her attacks,
even physically assaulting some victims. One infant, ‘Baby E’, was discovered by his mother bleeding profusely from his mouth – the result of Letby shoving medical equipment down his throat. His mum later recalled arriving on the unit to the sounds of the baby’s ‘horrendous’ screams, highly unusual and highly distressing. Letby exploited her position of authority to dismiss the worried parent, and ‘Baby E’ passed away shortly after.
The following day, on 5th August 2015, Letby added insulin to a bag of fluids being used to intravenously feed Baby E’s twin brother, ‘Baby F’. This caused the infant’s blood sugar levels to dangerously drop, though he did survive.
Yet another method she used was deliberate overfeeding. A very premature infant, ‘Baby G’, was given so much milk that she projectile vomited out of her cot. Although she survived, the episode caused her to stop breathing long enough to leave her permanently disabled.
Catching the killer
The disturbing events on the unit – included a cruelly persistent campaign of attacks on one infant, ‘Baby I’, which eventually led to her death – prompted another staff review in October 2015. The association with Letby was deemed merely ‘unfortunate’ by the ward manager, and the collapses were put down to natural causes, despite the now tangible fears of Dr Stephen Brearey.
There was a further review in February 2016, with another worried consultant, Dr Ravi Jayaram, being told ‘not to make a fuss’. Letby continued to work on the unit, carrying out yet more attacks. Her final killing spree came in June 2016 after a holiday in Ibiza; texting a colleague that she would be ‘back in with a bang’. She returned and murdered two siblings from a set of triplets – ‘Baby O’ and ‘Baby P’.
Following these catastrophic events, Brearey called management demanding that Letby be removed from the unit. Although she was indeed put on administrative duties in July, hospital managers resisted calls by medical staff to involve the police, and several consultants who’d raised concerns about Letby were even ordered to formally apologise to her.
In May 2017, police finally commenced one of the most complex investigations of modern times, bringing in medical experts to pore over the intricate details of each suspicious event on the unit. Letby’s arrest on 3rd July 2018 uncovered more disturbing revelations, such as the fact that she’d repeatedly looked up the parents of babies on Facebook and had scrawled the words ‘I killed them’ and ‘I AM EVIL I DID THIS’ among her copious, frenzied notes.
Her trial began on 10th October 2022 and lasted 10 months. Following lengthy deliberations, the jury found her guilty of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six others. Handed a whole life order for each offence, Lucy Letby will die in prison.
Questions about why a seemingly normal, well-adjusted nurse became the most prolific child killer in modern British history still persist and may never be answered.