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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
lucy letby

Former nurse Lucy Letby sentenced to life in prison without parole for murder of seven babies

The nurse murdered seven babies and tried to kill six more while working at the Countess of Chester Hospital neonatal unit between 2015 and 2016.

NURSE LUCY LETBY will spend the rest of her life in prison after being given a whole-life order at Manchester Crown Court for the murders of seven babies and attempted murders of six others at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Letby murdered seven babies and tried to kill six more while working at the Countess of Chester Hospital neonatal unit between 2015 and 2016.

The sentencing was televised live, but the feed stopped intermittently to protect the anonymity of the babies at the centre of the case and their families.

Sentencing the nurse, Mr Justice Goss said: “You acted in a way that was completely contrary to the normal human instincts of nurturing and caring for babies and in gross breach of the trust that all citizens place in those who work in the medical and caring professions.

The babies you harmed were born prematurely and some were at risk of not surviving but in each case you deliberately harmed them, intending to kill them

The judge said it was not part of his role to “reach conclusions about the underlying reasons” for Letby’s actions.

“Nor could I,” said the judge. “For they are known only to you.”

He said “lifelong harm” had been caused after Letby targeted babies whose lives were cut short “almost as soon as they began”.

“There was a malevolence bordering on sadism in your actions.

“During the course of this trial you have coldly denied any responsibility for your wrongdoing.

“You have no remorse. There are no mitigating factors.”

Sentencing her to a whole-life order for each offence, he said: “You will spend the rest of your life in prison.

“You have caused deep psychological trauma.”

More than a dozen relatives of Letby’s victims sat in the public gallery for the hearing and eight jurors returned to see the sentencing. 

Letby not in court

Letby was not in court for the sentencing, having previously indicated she did not intend to return to the dock, did not want to take any part in her hearing and would not follow the hearing via video-link from prison.

Mr Justice Goss said the court has no power to force a defendant to attend a sentencing hearing.

The mother of Child C choked back tears as she told Letby in her absence: “At least now there is no debate that, in your own words, you killed them on purpose. You are evil. You did this.”

The woman added: “I blame myself entirely for his death. I still live with the guilt that I couldn’t protect him during pregnancy or in his short life.”

In a statement read to the court, the mother of Child A, who was murdered by Letby, and Child B, who she attempted to kill, said: “You thought it was your right to play God with our children’s lives.”

She said after the death of Child A they feared for their second child and made sure a member of the family was always with her, but “made a mistake” and started to believe what happened to the first child was a “tragic event that couldn’t be stopped”.

She added: “Little did we know you were waiting for us to leave so you could attack the one thing that gave us a reason to carry on in life.”

“From this day, you are nothing.”

‘Final act of wickedness’

Nicholas Johnson KC, prosecuting, opened his remarks by confirming that the defendant “has refused to come into court”.

The mother of Child E, who died, and Child F, who survived, told the court the nurse’s refusal to appear was “just one final act of wickedness from a coward”.

Another parent said hospital bosses told her a police probe was “out of the question” after the death of her child, a full-term baby girl referred to as Child D, on 22 June, 2015.

She was the third infant death in a fortnight – equalling the total number of deaths on the neonatal unit for the whole of 2014.

Child D’s mother told the court she asked for her medical notes and met with doctors and management from the Countess of Chester Hospital.

She said: “We got a solicitor and I wanted the police involved. At that stage I was told this was not a criminal matter so the police was out of the question.”

Speaking today, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters that it was “cowardly that people who commit such horrendous crimes do not face their victims”.

Statutory inquiry

A growing number of figures are calling for inquiry into Letby’s crimes to be placed on a statutory footing.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said today: “I think it should be a statutory inquiry and I’ll tell you why.

“That’s what the victims’ family want and after what they’ve been through, I think that is a really important consideration.

“Secondly, what a statutory inquiry gives you is the power to order documents, to order witnesses to come forward. So we get the fullest, proper, comprehensive analysis of what went wrong here.

“So I think it has to be a statutory inquiry. I don’t think that needs to hold things up. We could get on with that very quickly.”

Police have also been urged to investigate hospital bosses for potential corporate manslaughter.

The prosecution’s lead medical expert, retired consultant paediatrician Dewi Evans, says he will write to Cheshire Constabulary to ask them to investigate “grossly negligent” bosses for not acting on fears about Letby while she was on a killing spree, the Observer reported.

Consultants who raised concerns about Letby as far back as 2015 have said babies could have been saved if hospital management had listened and acted sooner.

Dr Stephen Brearey, the head consultant in the hospital’s neonatal unit, first raised Letby’s association with an increase in baby collapses in June 2015.

He told the Guardian that deaths could arguably have been avoided from as early as February 2016 if executives had “responded appropriately” to an urgent meeting request from concerned doctors.

Police were contacted only in 2017.

Letby was arrested at her semi-detached home in Westbourne Road, Chester, at 6am on 3 July, 2018.

‘I killed them on purpose’

During searches of her address, a number of closely written notes were discovered.

On one note she wrote: “I don’t deserve to live. I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them”, “I am a horrible evil person” and in capital letters “I am evil I did this.”

Prosecutor Nick Johnson KC invited the jurors to read the note “literally” as a confession.

Her “voyeuristic tendencies” drove her to carry out numerous Facebook searches for parents of children she attacked, he said.

She used various ways to harm the babies, including injecting air into the bloodstream, injecting air into the stomach, overfeeding with milk, physical assaults and poisoning with insulin.

Letby, who denied all the allegations, falsified medical notes to cover her tracks and gaslighted doctors and nurses to persuade them the collapses were “just a run of bad luck”.

On Friday, jurors completed their deliberations of 110 hours and 26 minutes – spanning 22 days – following a trial which began last October.

The jury of seven women and four men convicted Letby of seven counts of murder and seven counts of attempted murder in relation to six other infants.

Cheshire Police say they are continuing to review the care of some 4,000 babies who were admitted to the Countess of Chester, and also at Liverpool Women’s Hospital when Letby had two work placements, during her employment from 2012.

Prisoners given a whole-life order are never considered for release unless there are exceptional compassionate grounds to warrant it.

Only three women have previously been handed a whole-life order, which used to be known as a whole life tariff – Hindley, who died in 2002, and serial killers Rose West and Joanna Dennehy.

Need help? Support is available:

  • Samaritans – 116 123 or email
  • Pieta House – 1800 247 247 or email (suicide, self-harm)
  • Aware – 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Féileacáin, the national association for those affected by neonatal death and stillbirth – 085 249 6464
  • Teen-Line Ireland – 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 18)
  • Childline – 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)
  • SpunOut – text SPUNOUT to 50808 or visit
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