Nurse Lucy Letby, the most prolific child serial killer in modern UK history, has been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The 33-year-old was also found guilty of attempting to murder six additional infants at the Countess of Chester Hospital, spanning from June 2015 to June 2016.
Letby intentionally injected air into the babies and administered milk through force-feeding to some, and used insulin to poison two of the babies.
She refused to appear in the dock for her sentencing hearing.
Letby is destined to spend the remainder of her life imprisoned, joining just four women in UK history to be handed this type of sentence.
Whole-life orders stand as the most severe penalty within the nation’s legal framework and are exclusively imposed upon individuals who perpetrate the most heinous offences.
Pascale Jones of the CPS said, “Lucy Letby sought to deceive her colleagues and pass off the harm she caused as nothing more than a worsening of each baby’s existing vulnerability.
“In her hands, innocuous substances like air, milk, fluids – or medication like insulin – would become lethal. She perverted her learning and weaponised her craft to inflict harm, grief, and death.
“Time and again, she harmed babies, in an environment which should have been safe for them and their families.
“Her attacks were a complete betrayal of the trust placed in her.
“My thoughts are with families of the victims who may never have closure, but who now have answers to questions which had troubled them for years.”
Jonathan Storer, Chief Crown Prosecutor, CPS Mersey-Cheshire, said, “This is an utterly horrifying case. Like everyone who followed the trial, I have been appalled by Letby’s callous crimes.
“To the families of the victims – I hope your unimaginable suffering is eased in some way by the verdicts. Our thoughts remain with you.
“Our prosecution team and police investigators have my respect and gratitude. These convictions could not have happened without their dedication to securing justice.”
Following the hearing, Deputy Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Evans, said, “Today, Lucy Letby has been handed a whole life order.
“The sentence reflects the true scale and gravity of her horrific crimes and ensures that a calculated and dangerous individual is behind bars for a very long time.
“Nothing will bring back the babies who died or take away the pain and suffering experienced by all of the families over the years but I hope that the significant sentence will bring some comfort at this dark time.
“The victim impact statements read out in court today on behalf of the parents are a chilling reminder of the pain and suffering that each family has had to endure over the years.
“Hearing their own experiences in their own words has been truly heartbreaking.
“I would once again like to say thank you to the families for putting your trust in us and for supporting an investigation that has been running for six years and a trial that has spanned almost 12 months.
“Our thoughts remain with you all at this incredibly difficult time – you are truly remarkable and will always have a place in our hearts.”
Key evidence in the prosecution case
- Medical records – these were crucial to establish the condition of the babies when they were attacked. When some babies recovered, the speed of their recovery was too sudden to be seen as a natural occurrence. Several medical documents featured falsified notes made by Letby to hide her involvement. She amended timings on several documents in an attempt to distance herself from incidents where babies had suddenly become severely unwell.
- Text messages and social media activity – these were an important part of the case as they coincided with the attacks happening on the neonatal Unit. They were dated and timed, sometimes they were similar to a live blogging of events. They also explained how Letby deceived her colleagues into believing that these inexplicable collapses were simply a natural worsening of children’s underlying conditions. They also revealed an intrusive curiosity about the parents of babies she had harmed.
- Staff rotas – we were able to show the jury that Letby was the one common denominator in the series of deaths and sudden collapses on the neonatal unit. We were also able to show the jury that many of the earlier incidents occurred overnight, but when Letby was put onto day shifts, the collapses and deaths began occurring in the day. We were able to corroborate this further using Letby’s personal diary in which she had noted her shift patterns.
- Handwritten notes and diaries – many handwritten notes were discovered by police during their investigation. They included phrases such as: “I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them”; “I am evil I did this”; and “today is your birthday and you are not here and I am so sorry for that”. These notes gave an insight into her mindset following her attacks.
Letby, who qualified in September 2011 after graduating from university, used a variety of methods to target the victims at the Countess of Chester Hospital – injecting the babies with air and poisoning them with insulin as well as over feeding them with milk.
In court the prosecution had claimed that Letby was a competent nurse who knew exactly what she was doing when she deliberately harmed the babies in her care on the neonatal ward.
The defence argued that there was no evidence to suggest Letby had inflicted harm on any baby citing ‘sub-optimal care’ by the hospital, issues with poor hygiene and a campaign of conspiracy against the defendant by a number of senior doctors as reasons for the deaths and non-fatal collapses.
Last week, after 10 months and 110 hours of deliberating the jury dismissed Letby’s version of events and agreed that she was responsible.
In early May 2017, The Countess of Chester Hospital Foundation Trust contacted Cheshire Constabulary regarding neonatal services at the hospital. This was in relation to a greater number of baby deaths and non-fatal collapses than normally expected during the period of June 2015 and June 2016.
As a result, Cheshire Constabulary launched an investigation called Operation Hummingbird.
A suspect was formally identified and as part of ongoing enquiries and on 3 July 2018 Letby was arrested at her home in Chester. She was taken into custody and interviewed by detectives and was subsequently bailed pending further enquiries.
This was followed by two further arrests – one in June 2019 and another in November 2020 – in total she was arrested three times in the space of just over two years.
During those arrests around 30 hours of video interviews were captured as Letby was asked to give her recollection of each event.
Enquiries continued during this time and on 10 November 2020 Letby was rearrested in Hereford.
One day later, she was charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder between June 2015 and June 2016.
Image: Lucy Letby