Lucy Letby, 30, had been working at Countess of Chester Hospital in northwestern England for nearly ten years when she was arrested on Tuesday and charged with several counts of murder. The arrest was part of an ongoing investigation into a series of “unexplained” deaths in the hospital’s neonatal ward.
According to the police, the scandal has been haunting the community since the deaths occurred between 2015 and 2016. Multiple families throughout the area lost their children while they were under the hospital’s care with little to no explanation. However, the authorities believe they may have finally found the culprit.
Suspicious Deaths in the Neonatal Unit
According to the official report, around 2015, pediatricians had “become concerned about a higher-than-usual number of neonatal deaths on the unit, several of them being apparently ‘unexplained’ and ‘unexpected.’”
The hospital then launched an investigation, and a subsequent report was filed, which stated, “the arrangements for investigating neonatal deaths must be strengthened.” The facility went through every aspect of its operations with a fine-tooth comb, including admission rates, staffing ratios, unit leadership, treatment methods, and other internal information.
Providers were on staff at the time of each of the alleged murders. They describe the infants’ health quickly and unexpectedly deteriorating. They were then “surprisingly unresponsive to resuscitation, despite staff following standard protocols in each case.”
In one case, an infant needed resuscitation three nights in a row, “but subsequently recovered.” Some providers began to suspect the incidents and deaths may have been related. For example, “some of the infants displayed a sudden mottling, [a blotchy, red-purplish marbling of the skin] appearing after a few minutes of resuscitation, usually starting on the limbs, and on at least one occasion, the center, abdomen and chest.”
The report says the consultants considered a number of different possibilities, “but there remained no definite explanation.”
Investigators recommended “a thorough, external independent review of each neonatal death between January 2015 and July 2016” to determine whether the infants died under similar circumstances.
Finding a Suspect
A year later in 2017, the police started an investigation of their own. Over the next three years, they started gathering evidence that suggested the infants were murdered. The police arrested nurse Lucy Letby, who has worked at the facility since 2011, twice, including once in 2018 and again in 2019. Both times she was released without further disciplinary action.
Now she’s back in custody as of Tuesday, November 10th. Letby has been charged with eight counts of murder and 10 count of attempted murder of a victim that was less than one year old.
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Hughes released a statement, reviewing the department’s work. “A dedicated team of detectives has been working on the highly complex and very sensitive case. Officers have been doing everything they can as quickly as they can to identify what has led to these baby deaths and collapses.”
He also noted that Ms. Letby is cooperating with the police.
Dr. Susan Gilby, chief executive of the hospital, released a statement shortly after Letby’s arrest, calling the development a “serious concern.” She continued by saying, “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.”
What About the Victims?
The police say they are working with the families during this difficult time.
Detective Hughes went on to say:
“Parents of all the babies have been kept fully updated on this latest development and they are continuing to be supported throughout the process by specially trained officers. This is an extremely difficult time for all the families, and it is important to remember that, at the heart of this, there are a number of bereaved families seeking answers as to what happened to their children.”
The investigation remains ongoing, but the authorities seem confident that they have the right person in custody. It’s still not clear how or why Letby caused the infants to collapse. Our hearts go out to the families that unexpectedly lost their children at Countess of Chester Hospital. Hopefully, the facility will find out what went wrong in the first place, so they can prevent it from happening again.