The Horror begins
The Horror begins
On 21 February 1991, her first victim, seven-month-old Liam Taylor, was admitted to Ward 4 with a chest infection. Allitt went out of her way to reassure his parents that he was in capable hands and persuaded them to go home to get some rest. When they returned, Allitt advised that Liam had endured a respiratory emergency but that he had recovered. She volunteered for extra night duty, so she could watch over the boy, and his parents chose to spend the night at the hospital as well.
Liam had another respiratory crisis just before midnight but it was felt that he had come through it satisfactorily. Allitt was left alone with the boy and his condition worsened dramatically; becoming deathly pale before red blotches appeared on his face, at which point Allitt summoned an emergency resuscitation team.
At the time, Allitt’s nursing colleagues were confused by the absence of alarm monitors which had failed to sound when he stopped breathing. Liam suffered cardiac arrest and, despite the best efforts of the attending team, he suffered severe brain damage and remained alive only due to the use of life-support machines. On medical advice, his parents made the agonising decision to remove their baby from life support. His cause of death was recorded as heart failure. Allitt was never questioned about her role in baby Liam’s death.
Only two weeks after the death of Liam Taylor, her next victim was Timothy Hardwick, an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy, who was admitted to Ward 4 following an epileptic fit on 5 March 1991. Allitt took over his care and, again following a period when she was alone with the boy, she summoned the emergency resuscitation team, who found him without a pulse and turning blue. Despite their best efforts, the team, which included a paediatric specialist, were unable to revive him. An autopsy later failed to provide an obvious cause of death, although Liam's epilepsy was officially blamed.
Allitt's third victim, one-year-old Kayley Desmond, was admitted to Ward 4 on 3 March 1991 with a chest infection, from which she seemed to be recovering well. Five days later, with Allitt in attendance, baby Kayley went into cardiac arrest in the same bed where Liam Taylor had died a fortnight before. The resuscitation team were able to revive her and she was transferred to another hospital in Nottingham. Attending physicians discovered, during a thorough examination, an odd puncture hole under her armpit. They also discovered an air bubble near the puncture mark, which they attributed to an accidental injection but no investigation was initiated.
Five-month-old Paul Crampton became Allitt’s next victim, placed in Ward 4 on 20 March 1991, as a result of a non-serious bronchial infection. Just prior to his discharge, Allitt, who was again attending a patient by herself, summoned help as Paul appeared to be suffering from insulin shock, going into a near-coma on three separate occasions. Each time, the doctors revived him but were unable to explain the fluctuation in his insulin levels. When he was taken by ambulance to another hospital in Nottingham, Allitt rode with him and he was again found to have too much insulin. Baby Paul was extremely fortunate to have survived the ministrations of the Angel of Death.
The next day, five-year-old Bradley Gibson, a pneumonia sufferer, went into unexpected cardiac arrest but was saved by the resuscitation team. Subsequent blood tests showed that his insulin was high, which made no sense to the attending physicians. A visit from Allitt later that night resulted in another heart attack and Bradley was transported to Nottingham, where he recovered.
Despite this alarming increase in the incidence of unexplained health events, all in the presence of Allitt, no suspicions were aroused at this time and she continued unchecked in her spree of violence.
On 22 March 1991, two-year-old victim Yik Hung Chan turned blue and appeared in considerable distress when Allitt raised the alarm but he responded well to oxygen. Another attack resulted in his transferral to the larger hospital in Nottingham, where he recovered. His symptoms were attributed to a fractured skull, the result of a fall.
Allitt next turned her attention to twins, Katie and Becky Phillips, just two months old, who were kept in for observation as a result of their premature delivery. A bout of gastro-enteritis brought Becky into Ward 4 on 1 April 1991, when Allitt took over her care. Two days later, Allitt raised the alarm, claiming that Becky appeared hypoglycaemic and cold to the touch but no ailment was found. Baby Becky was sent home with her mother.
During the night, Becky went into convulsions and cried out in apparent pain but the doctor who was summoned suggested she had colic. Her parents kept her in their bed for observation but she died during the night. Despite an autopsy, pathologists could find no clear cause of death.
Becky’s surviving twin, Katie, was admitted to Grantham as a precaution. Unfortunately Allitt was again in attendance. It wasn't long before she was again summoning a resuscitation team to revive baby Katie, who had stopped breathing.
Efforts to revive Katie were successful but two days later she suffered a similar attack, which resulted in the collapse of her lungs. Following another revival effort, Katie was transferred to Nottingham, where it was found that five of her ribs were broken, in addition to having suffered serious brain damage as a result of her oxygen deprivation.
In a supreme twist of irony, Katie's mother, Sue Phillips, was so grateful to Allitt for saving her baby's life that she asked her to be Katie's godmother. Allitt accepted willingly, despite having inflicted partial paralysis, cerebral palsy, and sight and hearing damage on the infant.
Four more victims followed but the high incidence of unexplained attacks in otherwise healthy patients, along with Allitt’s attendance during these attacks, finally caused suspicions to be raised at the hospital. On 22 April 1991 Allitt’s violent spree was brought to an end with the death of 15-month-old Claire Peck, an asthmatic who required a breathing tube. Whilst in Allitt’s care for only a few minutes, the infant suffered a heart attack but the resuscitation team revived her successfully. Once more alone in Allitt’s presence, baby Claire suffered a second attack from which she could not be revived.
Although an autopsy indicated that Claire had died from natural causes, Dr Nelson Porter, a consultant at the hospital, initiated an inquiry. The high number of cardiac arrests over the previous two months on Ward 4 alarmed him. An airborne virus was initially suspected but nothing was found. A test that revealed a high level of potassium in baby Claire’s blood resulted in the police being summoned 18 days later. Her exhumation resulted in the discovery of traces of Lignocaine in her system, a drug used during cardiac arrest but never given to a baby.
Stuart Clifton, the police superintendent assigned to the investigation, suspected foul play. He examined the other suspicious cases that had occurred in the previous two months, finding inordinately high doses of insulin in most. Further evidence revealed that Allitt had reported the key missing to the insulin refrigerator. All records were checked, parents of the victims were interviewed and a security camera was installed in Ward 4.
When record checks revealed missing daily nursing logs, which corresponded to the time period when Paul Crampton had been in Ward 4, suspicions were raised. When 25 separate suspicious episodes with 13 victims were identified, four of whom were dead, the only common factor was the presence of Beverley Allitt at every episode.