CHESTER, ENGLAND — A UK nurse has been arrested on suspicion of murdering eight babies and the attempted murder of another six newborns in her care.
Police took Lucy Letby, 28, into custody on Tuesday as they investigate her connection to up to 17 babies’ deaths and 15 nonfatal collapses at the Countess of Chester Hospital during 2015 and 2016, The Telegraph reports.
If convicted, Letby could be the UK’s most prolific child killer.
Letby is understood to have worked as as a children’s nurse since 2011, when she graduated from the University of Chester with a degree in child nursing.
A second hospital, Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Merseyside, announced on Wednesday that they were launching an investigation of patients who may have been under Letby’s care when she spent time training there — though a spokesperson for Liverpool Women’s Trust said there is “currently no suggestion that any patients at Liverpool Women’s came to any harm in relation to this investigation.”
In July 2016, the Countess of Chester Hospital commissioned an independent review of the unit because of concerns about a rise in “unexplained” deaths. Even though consultants found similarities in some of the cases, a review by the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health in November 2016 was unable to explain the deaths.
According to the report, most of the infants underwent a post-mortem, but were not given toxicology tests that would have detected traces of poisons or chemicals.
The same report notes that CCTV was installed on the unit, and that the hospital later issued patients and staff with electronic tracking wristbands in a bid to monitor free beds.
An NHS source told The Times that Letby was moved from clinical duties to administrative duties in 2016. Additionally, due to the rise in deaths, the hospital stopped delivering babies before 32 weeks of pregnancy, and instead transferred mothers-to-be to other hospitals.
The Countess of Chester Hospital asked police, who opened their investigation in May 2017 and were originally looking at 15 suspicious deaths, to “rule out unnatural causes of death.” The probe has now been expanded to examine 17 deaths and 15 nonfatal collapses.
Detective Inspector Paul Hughes of the Cheshire Police said:
“This is a highly complex and very sensitive investigation and, as you can appreciate, we need to ensure we do everything we possibly can to try to establish in detail what has led to these deaths and collapses.
“As a result of our ongoing inquiries we have today arrested a health-care professional in connection with the investigation.
“While this is a significant step forward, it is important to remember that the investigation is very much active and ongoing.”
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Main photo: Lucy Letby [Daily News / YouTube (screenshot)]