A children’s nurse has tonight been charged with the murders of eight babies.
Lucy Letby has been charged with eight counts of murder and 10 counts of attempted murder, Cheshire Police said.
It follows an investigation into baby deaths at the Countess of Chester Hospital.
Letby, 30, had first been detained by Cheshire Police back in 2018 after a spike in the number of deaths at the hospital.
The Chester University graduate, who was once the face of a £3million fundraising campaign and had also worked at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, was re-arrested over the same alleged offences in 2019 and again earlier this week.
Police launched an investigation after the hospital raised concerns at the high number of deaths between March 2015 and July 2016 – 10 per cent above average.
An internal inquiry was undertaken when medics found premature babies had died following heart and lung failure, but were unusually impossible to resuscitate.
Letby’s friends and family said at the time they were adamant the ‘awkward’ but ‘kind-hearted’ neonatal nurse was innocent.
Lucy Letby has been charged with eight counts of murder and 10 counts of attempted murder in connection with an investigation into baby deaths at the Countess of Chester Hospital, Cheshire Police said
Lucy Letby had qualified as a children’s nurse at the University of Chester back in 2011
A house on Westbourne Road in Chester, which was twice under investigation in 2018 and 2019 after nurse Lucy Letby was arrested, is pictured
The Countess of Chester hospital in the city is pictured
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Hughes said: ‘It has been more than three years since we first launched an investigation into a number of baby deaths and non-fatal collapses at the neonatal unit at The Countess of Chester Hospital.
‘In that time a dedicated team of detectives have been working extremely hard on this highly complex and very sensitive case doing everything they can as quickly as they can to identify what has led to these baby deaths and collapses.
‘In July 2018, a healthcare professional was arrested on suspicion of murder in relation to the deaths of eight babies and the attempted murder of six babies at the neonatal unit at The Countess of Chester Hospital.
Hospital baby deaths the four-year investigation in full
May 2017: Police open an investigation into the deaths of 17 babies and 16 non-fatal child incidents between March 2015 and July 2016.
July 2018: A healthcare professional is arrested on suspicion of murder in relation to the deaths of eight babies and the attempted murder of six babies.
June 2019: The same woman is re-arrested on suspicion of murder in relation to the deaths of eight babies and the attempted murder of six babies. She was also arrested in connection with the attempted murder of three additional babies.
November 2020: Police confirm they have rearrested a healthcare worker again over the alleged offences and are holding her in custody.
‘She was subsequently bailed pending further enquiries.
‘In June 2019, the healthcare professional was rearrested on suspicion of murder in relation to the deaths of eight babies and the attempted murder of six babies.
‘She was also arrested in connection with the attempted murder of three additional babies.
‘On November 10, as part of our ongoing enquiries, the healthcare professional has been rearrested on suspicion of murder in relation to the deaths of eight babies and the attempted murder of nine babies.’
Police launched an investigation into infant deaths at the hospital in May 2017, initially looking at the deaths of 15 babies between June 2015 and June 2016.
The investigation was later widened to the deaths of 17 babies and 16 non-fatal collapses between March 2015 and July 2016.
The probe came after the hospital raised concerns at the high number of deaths between March 2015 and July 2016 – which was 10 per cent higher than average.
Two babies had passed away at the site in 2013 but by 2015 it had quadrupled to eight.
An internal inquiry was undertaken when medics found premature babies had died following heart and lung failure but were unusually impossible to resuscitate.
A report also found that the infants had unusual blotches on their arms and legs after their deaths.
But a cause of death could not be established and police were asked to look into the case in 2017.
Following her previous arrests, Letby’s £180,000 home in the Blacon area of Chester was searched by police, as was her parents’ in Hereford.
Lucy Letby had once been the face of an effort to raise £3million for the neonatal unit
A police car outside the Women & Children’s Bulding at the Countess of Chester hospital when Letby was re-arrested in 2019
Despite the allegations against her, a friend previously described Letby as a ‘professional nurse’ who was dedicated to her ‘dream job’ and ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘We’re still reeling from it to be honest.
‘Even after sleeping on it I think everybody around here is still in a state of shock and disbelief.
‘Lucy was doing the job she dreamed of doing and appeared nothing but dedicated and professional. You can’t imagine her hurting a fly let alone defenceless babies.’
Another resident on the street, who also did not want to be named, added: ‘I can’t add much more to what’s been already said about her.
‘I knew her when she was a little girl and she was as sweet as anything. I’ve seen her grow up and she seemed a lovely woman.
‘So this is news is deeply and utterly shocking. I can’t fathom it.
‘When you hear of these sort of things, you always get one or two people saying ‘I thought there was something fishy about them’.
‘But with Lucy all you will hear is positive things.’
A shop worker at a store close the the family home said: ‘They pop in now and again and they are a very polite family. They all seem very friendly and normal.
‘Its shocking as its a nice area and we rarely see police around here.’
Letby was determined to take up nursing after leaving her comprehensive school in Hereford.
Number of babies who died at the facility
Figures show the number of babies who died at the facility rose in 2015 and 2016.
2009 – 3
2010 – 1
2011 – 3
2012 – 3
2013 – 2
2014 – 3
2015 – 8
2016 – 5
She was described as ‘geeky’ and always wanted to do good by helping out with charitable causes.
She was the face of a £3million appeal to build a new paediatric unit at the hospital in 2013.
Jordan Sands, who knew her through a former girlfriend, said: ‘She was quite awkward and geeky but seemed like a kind-hearted person.’
Another friend, who asked not to be named, described her as ‘an amazing person’.
Police were called in by the hospital in May 2017 after a 2016 report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health found staffing at the unit was inadequate.
Although the review could not find a reason for the increase in baby deaths between June 2015 and June 2016, it identified a string of concerns.
These included significant gaps in medical and nursing rotas, insufficient senior doctor cover, poor decision making and a reluctance by some staff to seek advice from colleagues.
Two babies died on the unit in 2013 and three in 2014, but mortality rates jumped to eight deaths in 2015 and by June 2016, five babies had already died that year.
The increased mortality rate prompted the hospital to stop caring for babies born before 32 weeks and to close its three intensive care cots.
Shocked neighbours of Miss Letby’s parents in Hereford described her as ‘very career-driven’, and said she had been dedicated about getting a job in the NHS.
One neighbour said: ‘I was woken by a police car arriving. This is a very quiet road and you don’t expect it to happen right on your street.’
Interviewed in 2013, Miss Letby said she had worked at the neonatal unit since graduating as a children’s nurse from the University of Chester two years previously.
Pictured holding a tiny sleepsuit in support of a local newspaper’s fundraising appeal, she added: ‘My role involves caring for a wide range of babies requiring various levels of support.
‘Some are here for a few days, others for many months and I enjoy seeing them progress and supporting their families.
‘I am currently undergoing extra training in order to develop and enhance my knowledge and skills within the intensive care area.’
In 2011, her parents, John and Susan, posted a message in their local newspaper along with a picture of their daughter proudly wearing her mortar board hat to congratulate her on graduating with honours.
One neighbour said their only child was ‘a very career-driven person’, describing her as ‘so dedicated to her job’.
‘Her parents have been my neighbours for at least 25 years, so I watched Lucy grow up,’ she said.
‘Lucy lives away but visits them frequently as any good daughter would. They adored her … they’d just got back from a week-long holiday in Torquay.’
She added: ‘I just truly can’t believe it. She was a delight. Her parents must be going through hell.’