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'Evil' nurse: Life in prison for Britain's most prolific serial killer who preyed on babies

A handout image of Letby released by Cheshire Constabulary police force in Manchester on August 17, 2023.
A handout image of Letby released by Cheshire Constabulary police force in Manchester on August 17, 2023. Copyright AFP PHOTO / CHESHIRE CONSTABULARY/ HANDOUT
Copyright AFP PHOTO / CHESHIRE CONSTABULARY/ HANDOUT
By Joshua Askew
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Lucy Letby injected newborns with air, physically attacked them, force-fed others milk and poisoned two with drugs.

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A British nurse has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six others while she worked in a hospital.

Lucy Letby - who refused to appear in court - will remain behind bars until she dies for a series of horrific crimes at a neonatal ward in Chester, close to the England-Wales border, which left other children with severe disabilities. 

She is the UK's most prolific child serial killer in modern times. 

The reasons why Letby killed the infants may never be fully understood, with the neo-natal nurse not explaining her motives. 

Prosecutors have speculated she did so to gain the attention of a doctor colleague she was "infatuated" with, while lawyer Nick Johnson said during the trial Letby enjoyed "playing God". 

"The lives of newborn babies were ended almost as soon as they began and life-long harm has been done," said Judge Mr Justice Goss, handing out a rare whole life order - the most severe punishment available in the UK. 

"Loving parents have been robbed of their children, and others have to live with the consequences... siblings have to live without their brothers and sisters," he said. 

"The reasons for your actions are known only to you."

The 33-year-old attacked and killed the infants, some only hours old, at the Countess of Chester Hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.

JACOB KING/AFP
Media gather outside of Countess of Chester Hospital, August 18, 2023.JACOB KING/AFP

She deliberately injected babies with air, physically attacked them, force-fed others milk and poisoned two with insulin, while deliberately trying to dupe her colleagues into believing they died naturally.  

Letby was also involved in a resuscitation attempt on one of her victims. 

During the trial, which started in October 2022, the prosecution called her "calculating and devious", adding she "gaslighted" colleagues to cover up "murderous assaults".

Reading out his verdict to the Crown Court in Manchester on Monday the judge noted how Letby, originally from Hereford, had kept "morbid records" of the deaths. 

"You had a fascination with the babies and their families, searching for them on Facebook. A piece of paper with dense writing on it was found at your home. You wrote 'the world is better off without me' and 'I am evil I did this'."

The trial has shocked the UK, with many angry at the fact Letby was allowed to refuse to appear in court.  

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AFP PHOTO / CHESHIRE CONSTABULARY/ HANDOUT
A handout image taken from police bodycam footage released by Cheshire Constabulary police force in Manchester on August 17, 2023 as they arrest Letby.AFP PHOTO / CHESHIRE CONSTABULARY/ HANDOUT

On Monday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called her "cowardly", confirming the government is planning to change the law to compel convicts to attend sentencing.

The court heard statements from victims' families this morning, before the televised sentencing began at 12:30 local time. 

"You thought it was your right to play god with our children's lives," said the parents of twins whom Letby attacked - one died, the other survived, but was left with brain damage. 

Another mother says the murder of her son was "like something out of a horror story".

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The allegations against Letby and her subsequent conviction have triggered a government inquiry amid questions over how she was able to escape detection for so long.

Hospital bosses failed to investigate her and tried to silence doctors who raised the alarm, Dr Stephen Brearey, the lead consultant at the neonatal unit where she worked, told the BBC earlier this week. 

He said he first raised concerns about Letby in 2015, claiming the hospital delayed calling the police, despite months of warnings from colleagues she may have been harming babies. 

Doctors were reportedly asked by the top managers to write an apology to Letby, who told them to stop making allegations against her. 

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A senior NHS manager was suspended on Monday for allegedly ignoring their concerns. 

Police are now probing the cases of 4,000 babies at Liverpool Women’s Hospital where Letby was working before moving to the neo-natal unit in Chester.

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