'Cruel, calculated' Lucy Letby to spend rest of life in prison (2023)

  • Published

'Cruel, calculated' Lucy Letby to spend rest of life in prison (1)Image source, Cheshire Police

By Judith Moritz, Daniel O'Donoghue, Lauren Hirst & Monica Rimmer

BBC News

Neonatal nurse Lucy Letby, who is the UK's most prolific child serial killer in modern British history, will spend the rest of her life behind bars.

The 33-year-old was convicted on Friday of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six other infants at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Letby deliberately injected babies with air, force fed others milk and poisoned two of the infants with insulin.

She refused to appear in the dock for her sentencing hearing.

The judge proceeded without her and said he was addressing her as if she were in the dock.

Letby was given multiple whole-life terms - one for each offence - becoming only the fourth woman in UK history to receive such a sentence.

Whole-life orders are the most severe punishment available and are reserved for those who commit the most heinous crimes.

Mr Justice Goss said the "cruelty and calculation" of Letby's actions between June 2015 and June 2016 were "truly horrific".

"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," he said.

He added handover sheets relating to all but the first four babies were found when police searched Letby's home, which he was satisfied she kept as "morbid records".

Passing sentence, he said: "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."

He said Letby, originally from Hereford, would be provided with copies of his remarks and the personal statements of the parents.

Image source, Cheshire Police

Ben Myers KC, defending Letby, said the neonatal nurse had "maintained her innocence throughout these proceedings" so there was nothing he was "able to add in mitigation that was capable of reducing the sentence".

As the hearing began, there was silence, which hung heavy, as those in courtroom seven at Manchester Crown Court waited for the judge to enter the room.

Eight of the jurors who tried Letby over 10 months were in attendance. Some were visibly upset as they heard about the grief, loss and distress suffered by each family.

Parents cried quietly in the public gallery as victim impact statements were heard. Their words made it clear the effect on their lives would be never-ending.

Letby's parents, who had been present throughout her trial, did not attend her sentence hearing.

Image source, Cheshire Police

The mother of a baby boy killed by Letby said she was "horrified that someone so evil exists".

Addressing an empty dock, the mother of Baby C, who became emotional, told the court that knowing now that her son's murderer had been watching over them throughout those traumatic hours was like "something out of a horror story".

The mother of Baby D, who was holding a toy rabbit as she read her statement, said Letby's "wicked sense of entitlement and abuse of her role as a trusted nurse" was a "scandal".

Baby E and F's mother described Letby as a "coward" for failing to attend the sentencing hearing, adding: "Our world was shattered when we encountered evil disguised as a caring nurse."

"We have attended court day in and day out, yet she decides she has had enough, and stays in her cell - just one final act of wickedness from a coward," she said.

The parents of Baby G, who was the most premature of all the babies, weighing just 535g (1lb 3oz), and who now requires constant care, told the court: "God saved her" but then "the devil found her".

The parents of Baby N, who Letby attempted to murder in June 2016, said the family still had a camera in their now seven-year-old's bedroom so they can check on him while he sleeps.

"We are extremely protective," they said.

BBC Action Line

This is a distressing case so if you, or someone you know, need help after reading about it, the details of organisations offering assistance can be found on the BBC Action Line website.

A total of 70 criminals are serving a whole-life order, four of whom are being held in secure hospitals.

They will never be considered for release, unless there are exceptional compassionate grounds to warrant it.

The other women to have been given a whole-life sentence are serial killers Rose West and Joanna Dennehy, as well as Moors murderer Myra Hindley, who died in 2002.

Sir Keir Starmer has urged the government to "get on" and bring forward proposals to force offenders to face their victims after Letby refused to appear in the dock.

"I want to see action as quickly as possible in this case, because victims' families have been through the most awful ordeal," he said.

Baby serial killer Lucy Letby

Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said Letby was "not just a murderer but a coward, whose failure to face her victims' families, refusing to hear their impact statements and society's condemnation, is the final insult".

"We are looking to change the law so offenders can be compelled to attend sentencing hearings," he said.

Earlier Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also said it was "cowardly" for convicted criminals not to face victims or their families in court.

The government has ordered an independent inquiry into the circumstances behind Letby's killing spree but, as it stands, the inquiry will not have the power to compel witnesses to give evidence.

As a result of this, concerns have been raised by some about how effective the inquiry will be in examining the case.

Among them is Labour's City of Chester MP Samantha Dixon who told the BBC the inquiry would have to rely on "the goodwill of witnesses to attend".

The lead consultant at the neonatal unit where Letby worked previously said hospital bosses failed to investigate allegations and tried to silence doctors.

Dr Stephen Brearey first raised concerns about Letby in October 2015 with hospital managers, including Alison Kelly, who was in charge of nursing at the time.

But he said no action was taken and Letby went on to attack five more babies, killing two.

Ms Kelly has since been suspended as director of nursing for Rochdale Care Organisation, which is part of the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust.

NHS England said the decision was made "in light of information that had emerged during the trial".

Following the verdicts on Friday, the prosecution's lead medical expert in the case, Dr Dewi Evans, said hospital executives who failed to act should be investigated by police.

He said he intended to write to Cheshire Police to ask the force to investigate bosses for not acting on the concerns of doctors.

Tony Chambers, former chief executive of the hospital, previously said he was "truly sorry" for what the families had gone through and he would "co-operate fully and openly" with any post-trial inquiry.

"As chief executive, my focus was on the safety of the baby unit and the wellbeing of patients and staff," he said.

"I was open and inclusive as I responded to information and guidance."

Ian Harvey, a former medical director at the hospital, also said he would help the inquiry "in whatever way I can".

"As medical director, I was determined to keep the baby unit safe and support our staff," he said.

"I wanted the reviews and investigations carried out, so that we could tell the parents what had happened to their children."

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Related Topics

  • Hereford
  • Chester
  • Cheshire
  • Lucy Letby

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