Lucy Letby: Everything You Need To Know About The Serial Killer

And why the former nurse's case has raised wider questions about hospitals and the court system.
Lucy Letby was convicted of murdering seven babies on Friday.
Lucy Letby was convicted of murdering seven babies on Friday.
via Associated Press

Lucy Letby was convicted of murdering seven babies on a neonatal ward, and as of Monday, she has been sentenced to life in prison.

The former nurse chose not to appear in the dock for Friday’s verdicts, and has sparked further outrage by refusing to appear in court for the victims’ hearings this week – so now the government is considering changing the law.

The case has also raised questions about how she was able to carry out the murders within a hospital over the course of a year, without raising suspicion.

Here’s what you need to know about the most prolific child killer in modern UK history.

What did Lucy Letby do?

Lucy Letby has just been convicted of killing seven babies and attempting to kill another six when she was working in the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Friday’s decision came after a 10-month trial and 22 days of jury deliberation – it’s believed to be the longest murder trial in the UK.

The jury also found her not guilty of two counts of attempted murder.

All of the incidents occurred between June 2015 and June 2016. She targeted the vulnerabilities of sick newborns, deliberately injecting some with air, force feeding others with milk and poisoning two with insulin.

Prosecutors noticed shortly after Letby’s arrival that the hospital began to see an increase in the number of babies dying or with declining health with little explanation – there were fewer than three baby deaths per year within the unit prior to June 2015.

Some of the babies survived, but only after suffering “serious catastrophic collapses”.

It was later revealed that Letby was on shift for all of these unusual cases, and prosecutors claimed she would harm the babies in ways that weren’t too noticeable – before persuading colleagues that the deaths were normal.

She was removed from frontline duties in late June 2016, and arrested in July 2018.

Her defence team claimed the deaths and collapses of the infants were the result of “serial failures in care” within the unit, and she was the victim of a “system that wanted to apportion blame when it failed”.

Letby did not attend the final verdict or the hearing, which outraged victims’ families and followers of the case.

The Guardian also reported over the weekend that police have identified another 30 or so babies who survived “suspicious” incidents when Letby was working.

According to the BBC, detectives are reviewing the care of 4,000 babies admitted to hospital while she was working between January 2012 to the end of June 2016.

Cheshire Police undated handout picture showing a handwritten note by neonatal nurse Lucy Letby.
Cheshire Police undated handout picture showing a handwritten note by neonatal nurse Lucy Letby.

What does a whole life sentence mean?

This afternoon, the judge decided Letby will receive a whole-life order for her seven murders and six attempted murders.

That means she will spend her whole life behind bars with no chance of parole.

It’s the most serious sentence under the British law system.

Although Letby was not in the room, Mr Justice James Goss – the judge – aimed his comments at her when he explained: “You have no remorse. There are no mitigating factors.

“In their totality, the offences of murder and attempted murder are of exceptionally high seriousness, and just punishment, according to law, requires a whole life order.”

Only two women in the UK are currently serving such a sentence: serial killers Rosemary West – convicted of 10 murders with her husband Fred West in 1995 – and Joanna Dennehy, who was convicted in 2014 of murdering three men and disposing of their bodies in ditches outside Peterborough.

Only one other woman in English legal history has ever had the same sentence – Moors murderer, Myra Hindley, who died in 2002.

Wayne Couzens, who murdered Sarah Everard in 2021, Thomas Mair who killed MP Jo Cox and Ali Harbi Ali, who killed Sir David Amess, are also all carrying out whole life sentences.

The prosecution’s Nick Johnson KC had called for the judge to pass this sentence for Letby, previously explaining to the court: “We submit that this is a very clear case, in which the offences which Lucy Letby has been convicted are are so serious, that the early release provisions should not apply.”

A view of Lucy Letby, who was on trial at Manchester Crown Court charged with the murder of seven babies, being taken in custody by police, in Chester, in 2018.
A view of Lucy Letby, who was on trial at Manchester Crown Court charged with the murder of seven babies, being taken in custody by police, in Chester, in 2018.

Why is the government now considering changing the law?

Letby chose not to go into the courtroom on both Friday and Monday – even though this is the victims’ families’ chance to share their own experiences.

A defendant cannot be forced to attend such hearings, and can’t be held in contempt if she decides not to go of her own accord.

But, the prison governor is able to say whether officers should use force as a last resort.

A reason has not been given for Letby’s absence.

Her decision not to go in was described as a sign of “disrespect” and “one final act of wickedness” by one of the victims’ mothers.

PM Rishi Sunak told the media on Monday morning that it is “cowardly” of Letby not to hear the statements from victims’ families.

He said people need to hear “first hand the impact their crimes have had”.

Sunak said the government will now consider changing the law so that people have to appear in court to hear such statements, adding: “That’s something we’ll bring forward in due course.”

However, it’s still not clear if the government will manage to get this into the King’s Speech in November.

She is one of several convicted killers recently who chose not to see their victims’ relatives in their hearings.

Where did Lucy Letby work and what will happen to the hospital now?

Questions have been raised about why action wasn’t taken earlier by her seniors.

The head consultant at the Countess of Chester Hospital, Dr Stephen Brearey, told the Guardian that the deaths could have been prevented by February 2016 if executives had responded “appropriately” to those doctors’ urgent meeting request.

One executive told The Times over the weekend she is seeking “legal advice”.

An independent inquiry will be carried out into how the hospital responded, although not everyone thinks that is an effective method of investigation.

Former justice secretary Robert Buckland voiced fears over the weekend that it should be made into a statutory inquiry, led by a judge with witnesses.

However, Care minister Helen Whately has insisted this is the best time of inquiry, because it will be quicker and more flexible.

It’s also worth noting that the parents of the victims allegedly will receive just £12,980 in NHS negligence compensation, according to the Daily Mail.


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