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LONDON — A neonatal nurse charged with murdering seven babies and attempting to kill 10 others was accused in court of injecting newborns with air and feeding them insulin at a hospital in the United Kingdom. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia’s war in Ukraine. ArrowRight Prosecutors accused Lucy Letby, 32, of being a “constant malevolent presence” at the hospital in northwest England in a years-long case that has sparked horror and fascination in the country. She has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutor Nick Johnson told jurors that Countess of Chester Hospital, where Letby worked, saw a significant rise in deaths and “catastrophic collapses” in its neonatal unit during 2015 and 2016, according to the Associated Press.
“Babies who had not been unstable at all suddenly deteriorated. Sometimes babies who had been sick but then been on the mend suddenly deteriorated for no apparent reason,” he said.
This led employees and investigators to suspect that “a poisoner was at work,” he said. Letby is accused of trying several times in some instances to kill one child.
Details from her trial, which could last months, were splashed across Britain’s newspaper front pages Tuesday morning.
Johnson told the court Monday that a premature baby who was killed in June 2015, one day after he was born, is believed to be Letby’s first victim. Doctors noticed that child A, as he was identified in court for privacy reasons, had an “odd discoloration” on his skin, Johnson reportedly said. An autopsy could not determine his cause of death.
An expert who looked into the case said the most likely cause was air injected into the bloodstream “by someone who knew it would cause significant harm,” the prosecutor said.
Child A’s twin sister, Child B, also suffered from dangerously low oxygen levels some 28 hours after her brother died. Employees resuscitated her, and she survived, but Johnson told the courtroom that the back-to-back cases showed “these were no accidents,” the Times of London reported.
Other incidents were initially chalked up to natural causes before hospital workers became alarmed, according to Johnson. In 2017, they called police, whose review of the evidence suggested that two children were poisoned with insulin by someone at the neonatal unit, he added.
The children — identified as child F and child L — survived after doctors treated them for a sudden and dangerous drop in blood sugar levels, Johnson said.
Letby was on duty when the newborns were allegedly poisoned — and was present every time “things took a turn for the worse for these 17 children,” Johnson said. The prosecution said the rise in deaths or serious deterioration of babies at Countess of Chester Hospital coincided with Letby’s shift schedule: When she worked nights, those incidents increased, and when she was moved to day shifts, they also increased, Johnson said.
Johnson alleged that when Letby did not succeed in killing a child, she tried again — and in one case, she tried three times, he added.
Letby was detained for questioning three times by Chester police in connection with their investigation into the incidents, and she was formally charged in November 2020.
Susan Gilby, chief executive of the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the facility, told The Washington Post in an email Tuesday: “As the trial begins, we are fully supportive and respectful of the judicial processes and as such will not be making any further comments at this stage. Our thoughts continue to be with all the families involved.”
Family members of the alleged victims were in court on Monday, reporters there said.