A nurse accused of murdering seven babies in a neonatal unit sent a condolence card to the parents of an infant she killed on her fourth attempt, a court has heard.
Lucy Letby, 32, who denied murdering five boys and two girls and attempted to murder five boys and five girls at the Countess of Chester Hospital between June 2015 and June 2016, is said to have kept a picture of the card she was holding the child had sent I am family on their cell phone.
She is said to have tried to murder some of the babies more than once.
On the third day of the opening of prosecutions, Manchester Crown Court also heard a concerned doctor enter the nurse while she was allegedly trying to kill another little girl, Child K.
Letby is accused of attempting to murder another baby, Child N, three times. The nurse also allegedly murdered two boys from a group of triplets, Child O and Child P, on consecutive days.
Prosecutor Nick Johnson KC said the alleged murder of Child I was an “extreme example, even by the standards of this entire case.”
Mr Johnson said: “This is a case where we allege Lucy Letby tried to kill her four times. [Child I] was resilient, but on the fourth try Lucy Letby finally succeeded and killed her.”
Letby is said to have injected air into Child I’s stomach through a feeding tube for the first time – just days after attempting to murder another baby, Child H.
On the second alleged trial on her life, the jury was told that a night shift colleague recalled seeing Letby in the doorway of a darkened room in the neonatal unit when the defendant remarked that I looked pale as a child.
The colleague turned on the light and saw the child who was “dying and not breathing.” Mr Johnson said jurors could wonder how Letby observed Child I’s appearance by looking into a darkened room.
The court heard that Child I collapsed and required chest compressions in the early hours of October 23, 2015, but was successfully resuscitated. Less than an hour later, the child’s monitor alarm sounded.
Mr Johnson said a colleague of the accused replied and saw Letby standing next to the child’s incubator. The court heard the nurse wanted to intervene because I was “distressed” as a child, but Letby said “they could work it out”. Child I collapsed and died after attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
Mr Johnson said a senior pediatrician who reviewed Child I’s case concluded the baby’s deteriorations were consistent with the deliberate administration of a large volume of air into her stomach.
The paramedic also believed the baby had had air injected into her bloodstream the last time around, causing her to “scream” followed by a rapid collapse.
When questioned by police, Letby was asked about a sympathy card she had sent to Child I’s parents. Mr Johnson said: “She said it wasn’t normal for a nurse to send a card and it was the only time she had done it, but it wasn’t often that the nurses got to know family as well.”
Letby accepted that she kept a picture of the card on her phone, Mr Johnson said.
The doctor ‘entered Letby as she tried to murder a newborn’
The court also heard a doctor enter Letby as she allegedly attempted to murder a newborn girl.
Ravi Jayaram, a pediatric consultant, had helped deliver the baby – Child K – who was born at the Countess of Chester Hospital on February 17, 2016 at 25 weeks and weighing just 692g.
Child K was deemed in the best possible condition for a baby born this early and admitted to the neonatal unit by Letby. The court heard that Dr. Jayaram later left to check on the baby after beginning to “notice the coincidence between the unexplained deaths, severe breakdowns and the presence of Lucy Letby.”
He walked into the room and saw Letby standing over Child K’s incubator and could see on a monitor that the baby’s oxygen saturation was dangerously low. But the alarm didn’t sound like it should have, and Letby hadn’t called for help.
“We claim she was trying to kill Child K when Dr. Jayaram came in,” Mr Johnson said.