British nurse who killed 7 babies sentenced to life in prison

LONDON — A neonatal nurse described as the most prolific child serial killer in Britain’s modern history was sentenced to a “whole life” term in prison on Monday for murdering seven newborn babies and attempting to kill six others.

A “whole life” term means she will never be released from prison. “This was a cruel, calculated and cynical campaign of child murder,” the judge said in reading the sentence.

Lucy Letby’s sentencing in Manchester Crown Court marks the end of a years-long effort to uncover the true cause of an unexplained string of deaths and collapses of infants at Countess of Chester Hospital, in Chester, England, between 2015 and 2016.

Lucy Letby, a British nurse, was arrested in 2018, and in 2023, she was found guilty of murdering seven newborn babies. (Video: Reuters)

On Friday, an 11-person jury found Letby, who worked at the hospital during that time, guilty of murdering seven babies and of trying to kill six more.

Letby, 33, has throughout her trial maintained her innocence.

She did not appear in court on Monday and face the families of her victims, choosing instead to remain out of sight in a holding cell at the courthouse.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called her decision “cowardly” and promised that his government would change the law to ensure convicts are in court to hear impact statements from the families of the victims of crime.

During the lengthy trial, prosecutors provided a mountain of medical evidence from the neonatal unit, in addition to handwritten notes and Facebook searches by Letby.

In one note, she wrote, “I am evil.”

In court, a mother whose baby son was murdered by Letby said her experience in the neonatal ward was “like something out of a horror story.”

The judge in the trial, Justice James Goss, noted that Letby was not in the courtroom, but he directed his words to her nonetheless.

“You relished being in the intensive care nursery,” Goss began, noting that the methods employed — adding air or insulin to feeding tubes — were only revealed by the later detailed investigation.

“There was premeditation, calculation and cunning in your actions,” the judge said. “You targeted twins and triplets. Some were healthy, others had conditions of which you were aware. They all fought for survival.”

The nine-month trial may have ended, but the case continues to have far-reaching consequences: The government announced last week that it would lead an inquiry to determine what happened and how Letby was allowed to keep working around vulnerable children for so long — even after doctors working in the unit raised suspicions.

The woman who served as director of nursing at the hospital when Letby attacked the babies was fired from her role within England’s National Health Service on Monday, British media reported.

The sentencing hearing was deeply emotional, with parents of the murdered babies having their statements read or presenting videos of them reading their own words.

“Lucy Letby has destroyed our lives,” said the father of murdered Child O and Child P. The two were triplets; the third child survived.

He continued: “The anger and the hatred I have toward her will never go away. It has destroyed me as a man and as a father. I have missed over six years of our children’s lives because of her actions. Even after the trial has ended, it will continue to haunt us and will always have an impact on our lives.”

The parents of Child N, whose statement was read by the prosecution, said: “The day we were called to the neonatal unit was the worst day of our lives … seeing our tiny baby fighting for his life … seeing medics doing CPR on his tiny body. … We both relive this every day, because not a day goes by without thinking about that day.”

Prosecutors told the court that a premature baby killed in June 2015, one day after he was born, is believed to be Letby’s first victim. Doctors noticed that Child A, as he was identified in court for privacy reasons, had an “odd discoloration” on his skin, prosecutor Nick Johnson reportedly said. An autopsy could not determine his cause of death.

An expert who looked into the case said the most likely cause was air injected into the bloodstream “by someone who knew it would cause significant harm,” the prosecutor said. Other babies were killed by injecting insulin.

After the sentencing, one of the lead investigators on the case, Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Evans, said the life sentence “reflects the true scale and gravity of her horrific crimes and ensures that a calculated and dangerous individual is behind bars for a very long time.”

She added, “Nothing will bring back the babies who died or take away the pain and suffering experienced by all of the families over the years but I hope that the significant sentence will bring some comfort at this dark time.”

Senior Crown Prosecutor Pascale Jones, said: “My thoughts remain with the families of the victims who have demonstrated enormous strength in the face of extraordinary suffering. I hope that the trial has brought answers which had long eluded them.”

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