U.K. nurse accused of murdering 7 infants sent sympathy card to parents after killing baby girl, prosecutor says

A nurse at a U.K. hospital tried to kill a baby girl four times before she was successful, then sent a sympathy card to her victim’s parents, a court was told on Wednesday. Lucy Letby is accused of murdering the girl and six other babies at the Countess of Chester Hospital in northwest England between June 2015 and June 2016.

She is also alleged to have attempted to murder 10 other infants at the same neo-natal unit in the same period.

Prosecutor Nick Johnson said the death of the girl — referred to in court as “Child I” — was “extreme even by the standards of this overall case.”

“This is a case where we allege Lucy Letby tried four times to kill her,” Johnson told a jury at Manchester Crown Court.

“(Child I) was resilient, but ultimately at the fourth attempt, Lucy Letby succeeded and killed her,” he said. 

Letby, 32, from Hereford in western England, is alleged to have deliberately administered air into the girl’s stomach through a nasogastric tube.

The first attempt on the girl’s life is alleged to have happened on Sept. 30, 2015, when she struggled to breathe after Letby fed her.

The second was two weeks later, on a night shift on Oct. 13, 2015, when Letby remarked to a colleague that “Child I” looked pale in her cot in a darkened room. The colleague checked on the infant and saw that she “appeared to be at the point of death and was not breathing,” Johnson said.

“Child I” recovered, and Letby was made her designated nurse. But the next night shift she was again “brought back from the brink of death,” Johnson said. 

The infant collapsed again on Oct. 23, 2015, and was successfully resuscitated. But hours after showing signs of recovery, her monitor alarm sounded. A colleague who went to help found Letby by the incubator and was told that she “would be able to sort it.” The child then collapsed and died.

A pediatrician concluded the collapses were likely caused by large amounts of air being deliberately administered into her stomach via a nasogastric tube.

On the fourth occasion, air was likely to have been injected directly into her bloodstream, jurors were told.

Johnson said Letby was interviewed by police and admitted sending a sympathy card to the girl’s parents, but said it was because she had got to know them.

She also kept an image of the card on her phone, and searched for the girl’s parents on Facebook, as she had done with three other babies in the case.

“(Child I) was born very early and very small. But she survived the first two months of her life and was doing well by the time Lucy Letby got her hands on her,” Johnson said.

“What happened to (Child I) followed the pattern of what happened to others before and what was yet to happen to others.

“It was persistent, it was calculated and it was cold-blooded.”

Britain Babies Killed
This court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook shows Lucy Letby appearing in the dock at Manchester Crown Court, in Manchester, England, Monday Oct. 10, 2022.

Elizabeth Cook / AP

Letby has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of murder for the seven infants who died, and 15 counts of attempted murder for the 10 other infants who survived. The 17 children have not been identified because of a court order.

The court has been told that she attempted to murder some of the babies more than once.

The court also heard that a doctor walked in on Letby as she allegedly attempted to kill another baby, the BBC reported. Dr. Ravi Jayaram had helped deliver Child K, who was born at 25 weeks, and later became aware the nurse was alone with the baby.

“Feeling uncomfortable with this because he had started to notice the coincidence between the unexplained deaths, serious collapses and the presence of Lucy Letby, Dr Jayaram decided to check on where [Ms Letby] was and how Child K was,” Johnson told the jury. “As he walked in he saw Ms. Letby standing over Child K’s incubator. Dr. Jayaram could see from the monitor on the wall that Child K’s oxygen saturation level was falling dangerously low, to somewhere in the 80s.”

Johnson said an alarm should have been sounding as Child K’s oxygen levels were falling.

 Johnson told the jury: “We allege she was trying to kill Child K when Dr Jayaram walked in.”

The jury has been told the trial may last up to six months, the BBC reported.

Countess of Chester Hospital police investigation
Police activity at a house in Chester, believed to be the home of nurse Lucy Letby, after Cheshire Police announced a female healthcare professional had been arrested in a probe into the deaths of infants at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images