LONDON — A former neonatal nurse convicted of murdering seven babies in her care and attempting to kill six others at a hospital in northern England was sentenced to life in prison on Monday without a chance to be freed by a judge who declared her cruel, cunning and insensitive. , and acted with “a malevolence bordering on sadism”.
Lucy Letby, who refused to appear in court for sentencing or face an outpouring of anger and anguish from grieving parents, was handed the harshest sentence possible under the law Britain, which does not allow the death penalty.
Judge James Goss said the number of murders and attempts and the nature of the murders committed by a nurse caring for the most fragile infants provided the ‘exceptional circumstances’ needed to impose a rare ‘whole life order’ . Only three other women have received such a harsh sentence in the UK
“There was a deep malevolence bordering on sadism in your actions,” Goss said, addressing the absent defendant, who will be given a transcript of the proceedings. “During this trial, you coldly denied any responsibility for your wrongdoings. You have no remorse. There are no mitigating factors. »
A Manchester Crown Court jury which deliberated 22 days convicted Letby, 33, of the murder of all seven babies over a year-long period which saw her tackle the vulnerabilities of sick newborns and their anxious parents. Eight jurors showed up to watch the sentencing.
Letby made babies sick by injecting air into IV lines, poisoning some with insulin and force-feeding others milk. After killing them, she sometimes sobbed in grief, made memories for relatives, and bathed the little bodies and dressed them for burial.
The victims, who were anonymized and listed only by letters, such as Child A and Child B, died in the neonatal unit of the Countess of Chester Hospital in north west England, between June 2015 and June 2016.
“I don’t think we will ever get over the fact that our daughter was tortured until she had no fight left in her and everything she went through in her short life was deliberately done by someone who was supposed to protect her and help her come home where she belonged,” the mother of a girl identified as Child I said in a statement read in court.
The judge said no one but Letby knew what drove her, although some parents ventured theories: she wanted to play God; she needed attention, drama and sympathy in her life; or she wanted to be remembered.
Prosecutor Nicholas Johnson said Letby deserved a “lifetime award” for “sadistic conduct” and premeditated crimes.
Defense attorney Ben Myers said Letby maintained his innocence and could add nothing that would reduce his sentence.
A mother who conceived her twins through in vitro fertilization says there are ‘no children in the world more wanted than them’ and is unsure if she will have any more. Letby killed one, Child E, and left Child F with learning disabilities that his mother attributes to insulin poisoning.
She became emotional as she described the regret she has every day that she let Letby spend the last moments of Child E’s life bathing and dressing the boy in a woolen robe.
“He was buried in this robe, a gift from Lucy’s chosen unit,” she said.
Other families have also suffered multiple tragedies since Letby targeted three sets of twins and a series of triplets.
Another mother of twins had to mourn the loss of a son and blame herself when her family members – who had made sure to watch over the second child after the death of the first – let their guard down and Letby struck again, injuring the boy’s sister. , who survived.
“We didn’t know you were waiting for us to leave so you could tackle the one thing that gave us a reason to go on in life,” the mother said.
The parents of triplets lost two of their babies, and the third survived after being transferred to another hospital. The couple said in a video released in court that Letby ruined their lives.
“The anger and hatred I have towards her will never go away,” the father said. “It destroyed me as a man and as a father.”
A father called Letby “the devil” and said she tried to kill his daughter twice. The nurse was unsuccessful but the girl was left blind, with brain damage and had to be fed through a tube.
“Every day I sat there and prayed. I would pray for God to save her,” Child G’s father said. “He did. He saved her, but the devil found her.
Letby’s absence, permitted by British courts during sentencing, fueled anger among the victims’ families, who wanted her to listen to statements about the devastation caused by her crimes.
Politicians and victim advocates have called for changes to the law to force criminals to appear for sentencing after several high-profile convicts chose not to face their victims in recent months.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who called the crimes “shocking and heartbreaking”, said his government would “in due course” present a plan to compel those convicted to attend their sentencing hearings.
“It’s cowardly that people who commit such horrific crimes don’t face their victims and hear directly the impact their crimes have had on them, their families and loved ones,” Sunak said.
An independent inquiry is also planned into what happened at the Countess of Chester Hospital and how staff and management responded to the spike in deaths in neonatal units. However, there are calls for a more formal investigation by a judge, who could order people to testify.
During Letby’s 10-month trial, prosecutors said the hospital began to see a significant increase in babies in 2015 who died or suffered a sudden decline in health for no apparent reason.
Some suffered “severe catastrophic collapses” but survived after getting help from medical personnel.
Letby was on duty in any case, with prosecutors describing her as a “constant malevolent presence” in the neonatal unit when children suffered medical distress or died. The nurse harmed the babies in ways that were hard to detect and she persuaded her colleagues that their collapses and deaths were normal, they said.
Senior doctors said over the weekend that they raised concerns about Letby as early as October 2015 and that the children could have been saved had officials taken their concerns seriously.
Dr Stephen Brearey, chief consultant for the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital, told the Guardian newspaper that deaths may have been prevented as early as February 2016 if leaders had “responded appropriately” to a request for an urgent meeting of the doctors concerned.
Letby was eventually relieved of her frontline duties at the end of June 2016. She was arrested at her home in July 2018.
Police found records they had brought home from the hospital on babies who had collapsed. Investigators learned that Letby conducted thousands of online searches for information about relatives after the murders.
They also found a note in her house that served as a chilling confession: “I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to take care of them,” she wrote. “I’m a horrible, mean person.”
Child C’s mother cried on the witness stand as she recalled the loss of her firstborn, a helpless “feisty little boy”.
She had worn her son’s hand and foot prints around her neck to remember him. The later realization that the person who took those fingerprints – Letby – was the same person who took his own life tainted the memory, she said.
“No pain will ever compare to the excruciating agony we suffered because of your actions,” she said. “At least there is now no debate that, in your own words, you killed them on purpose. You are cruel. You did it.”
British nurse found guilty of murdering 7 babies
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