A nurse accused of the murders of eight babies in a year-long killing spree at a hospital neonatal unit today appeared in the dock of a courtroom for the first time.
Lucy Letby is alleged to have murdered five boys and three girls while working at the Countess of Chester Hospital.
She is also accused of the attempted murder of five baby boys and five baby girls, all between June 2015 and June 1016.
The 30-year-old appeared in person in the dock at Chester Crown Court this afternoon and spoke only to confirm her name.
A bail application is expected to be made on behalf of the defendant later today.
Defence barrister Ben Myers QC, representing Letby, said the defendant was ‘very anxious’ about the situation and would like it resolved ‘as soon as possible’.
Judge Steven Everett, Honorary Recorder of Chester, acknowledged that all of the families involved in this case have had a ‘truly, truly stressful and traumatic time’.
He said the children had died in ‘undoubtedly terrible circumstances’.
Letby waved to her parents today, who had entered the court a few minutes earlier, sitting side by side in a gallery overlooking the dock.
Lucy Letby, 30, was charged with eight counts of murder and 10 counts of attempted murder
The 30-year-old appeared in person in the dock at Chester Crown Court this afternoon and spoke only to confirm her name. Pictured, A prison van carrying Letby arrives at court
Today Letby appeared before Chester Crown Court over the 18 charges and spoke to confirm her name
Families of the alleged victims were able to watch the proceedings via a video link at remote locations.
Letby 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 had launched an investigation after the hospital raised concerns at the high number of deaths between March 2015 and July 2016 – which were said to be 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 appeared before Chester Crown Court today over the 18 charges
A police car outside the Women & Children’s Building at the Countess of Chester hospital
A house in Chester, which was twice investigated by police in 2018 and 2019 after nurse Lucy Letby was arrested
Hospital baby deaths the four-year investigation in full
JUNE 2015 to JULY 2016: 15 babies die on neonatal unit and six others suffer non-fatal collapses.
NOVEMBER 2016: RCPCH publishes report making 24 recommendations.
FEBRUARY 2017: Senior doctors and nursing staff carry out a ‘high level’ review into neonatal deaths at the hospital.
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 2017: Bosses announce that babies born before 32 weeks will be cared for at neighbouring units as hospital closes its three intensive care cots
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 charged her with murder.
Speaking after Letby was arrested earlier this week, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Hughes from Cheshire Police 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.
‘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.
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 said to be 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.
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.
The Chester University graduate (pictured), 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
Lucy Letby had once been the face of an effort to raise £3million for the neonatal unit. The 30-year-old had qualified as a children’s nurse at the University of Chester back in 2011
Letby, 30, had first been detained by Cheshire Police back in 2018 after a spike in the number of deaths at the Countess of Chester Hospital (pictured)
A house on Westbourne Road in Chester, which was twice under investigation in 2018 and 2019 after nurse Lucy Letby was arrested, is pictured in 2019
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
Robyn Smith, of Slater and Gordon, representing two of the families, said: ‘Our clients are relieved that we are one step closer to getting the answers they have long-since been waiting for.
‘We await the outcome of the criminal proceedings and will of course be supporting our clients through this traumatic process.’
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.’