LONDON (AP) — A neonatal nurse in a British hospital was found guilty Friday of murdering seven babies and trying to kill six others during a yearlong campaign of deception when she preyed on the vulnerabilities of premature and sick newborns as well as their anxious parents.
Following 22 days of deliberation, the jury at Manchester Crown Court convicted 33-year-old Lucy Letby of killing the babies in the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital in northwest England between 2015 and 2016.
“Parents were exposed to her morbid curiosity and her fake compassion,” said the lead prosecutor, Pascale Jones. “Too many of them returned home to empty baby rooms. Many surviving children live with permanent consequences of her assaults upon their lives.”
Her attacks, Jones said, were “a complete betrayal of the trust placed in her.”
Letby was accused of deliberately harming the newborn infants in various ways, including by injecting air into their bloodstreams and administering air or milk into their stomachs via nasogastric tubes. She was also accused of poisoning infants by adding insulin to intravenous feeds and interfering with breathing tubes.
Families of the victims said they will “forever be grateful” to jurors who had to sit through 145 days of “gruelling” evidence.
In a joint statement read outside court, they also expressed their gratitude to medical experts, consultants, doctors and nursing staff who came to give evidence during the trial, which they described as “extremely harrowing and distressing” at times to listen to.
“The search for the truth has remained at the forefront of everyone’s minds and we will forever be grateful for this,” they said. “We would now ask for time in peace to process what has happened as we come to terms with today’s verdict.”
A sentencing hearing was set for Monday.
The jury of seven women and four men deliberated for 22 days before reaching the verdict. One juror was excused well into deliberations for personal reasons and the judge later gave the remaining 11 jurors the option of reaching a verdict with 10 people in agreement instead of a unanimous decision.
Letby denied all the charges. She was found guilty of the seven murders and of seven charges of attempted murder relating to six children. She was cleared of one charge of attempted murder and the jury could not reach a verdict on several others.
Some of the verdicts were announced in court earlier in the month, but the judge imposed a ban on reporting them until deliberations were complete. Letby fought back tears on Aug. 8 as the jury found her guilty of two counts of attempted murder and burst out crying as she left the courtroom. She had more recently declined to be in the courtroom as additional verdicts were announced.
During the lengthy trial, which began last October, prosecutors said the hospital in 2015 experienced a significant rise in the number of babies who were dying or suffering sudden deteriorations in their health for no apparent reason. Some suffered “serious catastrophic collapses” but survived after help from medical staff.
They alleged that Letby was on duty in all the cases and described her as a “constant malevolent presence” in the neonatal unit when the children collapsed or died. They said the nurse harmed the babies in ways that did not leave much of a trace, and that she persuaded her colleagues that the collapses and deaths were normal.
The first baby allegedly targeted by Letby was a boy born prematurely who died when he was a day old, in June 2015. Prosecutors alleged the nurse injected air into his bloodstream.
Police launched an investigation into the baby deaths at the hospital in May 2017. Letby was arrested three times in connection with the deaths before she was charged in November 2020.
Prosecutors said a note found at Letby’s home after she was arrested in 2018 where she had written “I am evil, I did this” was “literally a confession.”
Her defense lawyer argued she was a “hard-working, dedicated and caring” nurse who loved her job and that there was not enough evidence of her carrying out any of the alleged harmful acts.
The lawyer said the infants’ sudden collapses and deaths could have been due to natural causes, or in combination with other factors such as staffing shortages at the hospital or failure by others to provide appropriate care.
He also claimed that four senior doctors pinned blame on Letby to cover up failings in the neonatal unit.
Letby testified for 14 days, denying all accusations she intentionally harmed any baby.
“I only ever did my best to care for them,” she testified. “I am there to care not to harm.”
She sobbed at times and defended the collection of medical records she kept at home on some of the babies in her care.
“I don’t deserve to live,” she wrote on a green sticky note shown in court. “I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them.”
“I am a horrible evil person,” she wrote. “I AM EVIL I DID THIS.”
Her lawyer defended the notes as the anguished writings of a woman who had lost confidence in herself and blamed herself for what had happened in the ward.
“One note says ‘not good enough,’” defense lawyer Ben Myers said. “Who did she write that for? She didn’t write that for us, the police or these proceedings. That is a note to herself. Writing for herself.”