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Trial Begins For U.K. Nurse Accused Of Killing 7 Babies In The NICU

Lucy Letby, the U.K. nurse accused of killing multiple newborn infants in her care, pleaded not guilty to seven murder charges and 15 attempted murder charges.

By Megan Carpentier
Nurse Accused Of Killing 8 Newborns Appears in Court

A former neonatal intensive care unit nurse who is accused of killing seven babies in her ward and attempting to kill 10 others — some multiple times — has gone on trial in the United Kingdom.

Lucy Letby, 32, was first arrested in July 2018, the BBC reported, for the alleged murder of eight infants and the attempted murders of another six. She was charged with three additional accounts of attempted murder in June 2019, the station reported, followed by an additional count of attempted murder in November 2020, Oxygen.com reported at the time.

According to the Hereford Times, she was found not guilty on one of the original eight murder charges in June, due to lack of evidence. Then, on Monday, Prosecutors added five additional attempted murder charges, alleging that Letby made multiple attempts on the lives of several of the 17 babies whose cases she is already charged in.

RELATED: Nurse Charged With Killing 8 Babies, Attempted Murder Of 9 Other Newborns

In total, she is standing trial for killing five baby boys and two baby girls, and attempting to kill five baby boys and five baby girls. She pleaded not guilty to 22 counts on Monday, Sky News reported, after which the prosecution began its case.

The courts had previously ruled that the media cannot name any of the alleged victims or their parents, but assigned each of the 17 babies a letter designation for the media to use in their reporting.

Prosecutors allege that Letby carried out her murder spree between June 2015 and June 2016, leading to a marked rise in the number of deaths on the unit, the Hereford Times reported. They noted that the only staff member on duty in each of the 22 murders, or attempted murders, thhat they were able to identify as suspicious — they investigated 16 deaths and 17 near-fatal incidents — was Letby, who started off working the night shift. When she transferred to days, the deaths and near-deaths on the overnight shifts resumed their pre-Letby frequency, but the number of incidents on the day shift increased dramatically.

Lucy Letby Home G

Prosecutors presented evidence on Monday and Tuesday about the children whose injuries and deaths they say were not the result of natural causes.

The first were a set of boy-girl twins born prematurely in June 2015, referred to as Child A and B. Letby started her shift around 7:30 p.m. on June 8 and Child A died just before 9:00 p.m., of what two independent investigators later determined was air introduced intravenously. 

Child B, the girl twin, was stable on the evening of June 9, when Letby started her shift, but the girl was under the care of another nurse. Letby, however, checked her blood gases at 12:15 a.m. on June 10 and, within 15 minutes, alarms sounded that the child was having difficulty breathing. The Cheshire Standard reported that the child was able to be resuscitated and survived the event; doctors later discovered "loops of gas filled bowel," a symptom many of the babies in the case seem to share. Doctors believe she, too, had air injected into her IV, prosecutors said.

The next child hurt, Baby C, was a boy — and one of two patients Letby had been assigned that week, though her supervisor felt she was paying more attention to him than the other child, according to testimony reported by the Cheshire Standard. He was born prematurely at just 30 weeks on June 10, but doctors felt he was improving until he died on the night of June 15. A less experienced nurse had been assigned to his care on the night of his death so that Letby, who was more experienced, could look after the sicker child. That night, the nurse heard an alarm, went into Baby C's room and found Letby already there. Baby C could not be resuscitated and died.

A pathologist allegedly determined that the child died from having oxygen injected into his nasogastric feeding tube, which suffocated him. After her shift ended the following morning, Letby allegedly looked up the Facebook profiles of his parents, prosecutors say.

Baby D, another girl, was not born premature, but was admitted to the NICU with an infection about a week after Baby C. Letby was also not her nurse, but was caring for two other babies in the same room as Baby D, who had been rapidly improving on antibiotics until June 22, 2015, the Hereford Times reported. 

With Letby in the room, the baby crashed three times that night: first at 1:30 a.m., then at 3:00 a.m. and finally at 3:45 a.m., when she could not be resuscitated and died. Pathologists say that she, too, was the victim of an air injection into her IV. Letby, prosecutors say, later looked up her parents on Facebook, too.

Babies E and F were twin brothers born prematurely in late July 2015 and were transferred to the NICU where Letby worked. Baby E had a risk of gastrointestinal issues, but had a gastric feeding tube and IV line and was improving until the evening of Aug. 3 — when he was in Letby's care. The boys' mother came to the ward for the children's 9:00 p.m. feeding with breast milk she had pumped, and discovered her elder son bleeding from his mouth and in clear distress. Letby told her that the blood was only due to irritation from the feeding tube and forced her to leave the unit, saying that she was going to call a doctor.

Letby allegedly didn't call a doctor until 10:20 p.m., when she told them there was a small amount of blood in the tube. At 11:00 p.m., the Baby E began to deteriorate, with 15 mL of blood coming up the tube — nearly 25 percent of the baby's total blood volume — followed by an oxygen desaturation at 11:40 p.m. with similar symptoms as the prior babies. He was pronounced dead at 1:40 a.m. on Aug. 4.

Doctor allege that air was introduced into Baby E's IV line, but could not come to a conclusion about the bleeding.

Prosecutors say that Letby falsified the nursing records after the baby's death to indicate that other staffers were called in and informed of the baby's care earlier. And, once again, they say Letby sought out the parents' social media (which she allegedly continued to do well into 2016).

Baby F, the twin brother of the child who died on Aug. 4, was the next to take ill, beginning overnight on Aug. 5, when Letby was on duty in his room but was not caring for him. The child was due to be given IV nutrients and suddenly began having extreme and repeated low blood glucose after receiving a new bag of fluids — signed for by Letby, prosecutors say. Tests later showed he had abnormally high levels of synthetic insulin, which investigators now believe were the result of insulin being added to his bag of fluids.

Though his blood glucose crashed multiple times — which could have killed him — Baby F survived.

When Letby was interviewed about Baby F in 2018, she allegedly asked police officers if they had access to the bag she connected.

Prosecutors say that Letby attempted to murder Baby G, a girl born extremely premature in April 2015, three times. The first was shortly after she was transferred to Letby's ward, on Sept. 6, 2015 — 100 days after her birth — on a night when Letby was present but not assigned her designated nurse. While Baby G's nurse was on break, other nurses heard the tiny baby vomit violently, fall onto a chair and then the floor and subsequently crash. Far more fluid was found in her tiny stomach than should have been there after she vomited, air was subsequently removed from her stomach and seen in her abdomen and intestines. She was transferred to another hospital and recovered.

Baby G was moved back to Letby's hospital on Sept. 16 and left in her care during a day shift on Sept. 21. Letby fed the child via her nasogastric tube at 9:15 a.m., and she subsequently projectile vomited twice at 10:20 a.m., followed by a severe episode of oxygen desaturation. She recovered but, at some point after 3:30 p.m., Letby "discovered" Baby G not breathing and her monitoring machines turned off. She shouted for help and was attempting to resuscitate the baby when another nurse arrived.

Prosecutors say that Baby G was deliberately overfed and had air introduced into her stomach on both occasions, causing her to crash. In 2016, she was diagnosed with permanent brain damage as a result of the lack of oxygen in September 2015.

Letby allegedly looked up Baby G's parents on Facebook on more than one occasion as well.

The prosecution will resume its presentation on Wednesday.