The closest thing Lucy Letby has to confessing her depraved thoughts and intentions are the post-it notes filled with her tiny scribbles.
Detectives suggested that these scraps of evidence had been left for police to find at his semi-detached house in Westbourne Road, Chester, in an indirect but deliberate attempt to end his murder spree.
Although I have great respect for the thorough investigation by the police against this heinous killer, I cannot agree with their interpretation.
These scribbled notes are simply a glimpse into Lucy Letby’s psyche.
As a forensic psychiatrist, my job is to treat and rehabilitate what some call “criminal lunatics,” many of whom mug, steal, rape, and even kill. My work takes me to high security prisons and locked down hospital wards across the country, as well as to courtrooms to testify as an expert witness.
Lucy Letby, 33, will die in prison after receiving 14 life sentences for murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six others in a neonatal unit.
Dr. Sohom Das is a forensic psychiatrist and believes that “the baby killer’s scribbled notes are, quite simply, a glimpse into Lucy Letby’s psyche”.
In my career, I’ve looked at four women who murdered babies. All suffered from psychotic delusions so severe that their grip on reality was broken.
That’s not what we see in these post-it notes. There is no evidence here of a mental illness so severe that it could reduce Letby’s criminal culpability.
What jumps out at me are the expressions of self-hatred, guilt, shame and self-loathing, as well as low self-confidence – what psychiatrists call “negative cognitions”. We see it in phrases such as “I don’t deserve mom + dad”, “I hate myself”, “I’m a horrible, mean person”, “I don’t deserve to live”, and “The world is better off without me. “. ‘.
At the bottom right of the green note, she added annotations in capital letters: “NO HOPE”, “DESPAIR”, “PANIC”, “FEAR”, “LOST”.
Two overlapping reasons combine to explain such outbursts. The first, while it does not diminish the wickedness of her actions, is a modicum of awareness that what she has done is too terrible to imagine.
She said, “There are no words. I’m a horrible person – I pay for it every day.
A tiny part of her, even though it conflicts with what she was actually doing to those babies, seems to feel guilty. Perhaps that’s why these words are printed on such small pieces of paper: besides self-pity, they represent his awareness – and this was very limited in scope and size.
There wasn’t enough guilt to stop her from continuing to kill, nor enough to make her admit what she had done during the trial. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a single conflicting fragment of his subconscious.
Some thoughts are contradictory. She writes: “I did nothing wrong. But a few lines later, she admits: “I AM EVIL. I DID THIS’
In some of his scribbles, notably on a page torn from a notebook and tightly covered on both sides, Letby repeatedly writes the names of his cats, Tigger and Smudge.
The criss-crossing words, the repeated loops and letters, the words “HELP” and “HATE” covered in thick black writing, and the overall intensity are all signs of a mind in turmoil.
Police recovered Letby’s diary and notes from her semi-detached house in Westbourne Road, Chester.
The second possible explanation lies in the obvious signs of depression and anxiety found in these frantic scribbles.
Such negative thoughts are a common expression of depression. Chances are she didn’t know what was going to happen when she started writing on those Post-its.
One of them is titled “Not Good Enough”, and she may have started with the intention of just jotting down a few thoughts, before they exploded out of her in this chaotic rush and, maybe -being, cathartic.
The criss-crossing words, the repeated loops and letters, the overlapping “HELP” and “HATE” in thick black script, and the overall intensity are all signs of a spirit in turmoil.
But even though she suffered from depression, the symptoms were not severe enough to prevent her from functioning normally.
To her colleagues at the hospital, she didn’t seem overly stressed in her high-pressure role of supposedly caring for babies on the verge of death.
Some thoughts are contradictory. She writes: “I did nothing wrong. But a few lines later, she admits: “I AM EVIL. I DID THIS.’ The battle between good and evil is palpable. Of course, we know who won.
I have seen cases where people committed crimes and then convinced themselves that the acts they remembered never happened. This is not the case with Lucy Letby.
She knows deep down that she murdered those seven babies and hurt many more, but she is deeply invested in her own lies and the idea of her innocence – so completely that she feels aggrieved that anyone can doubt his words.
Dr. Das believes Letby’s true motivations for killing are power, control, and the pleasure of being present in the grieving process.
This is a well-known contradiction among many people who commit less serious crimes, such as financial fraud: they get away with it for so long that, even though they know they are guilty, they feel that it is not It’s not reasonable for anyone to accuse them.
It’s a kind of narcissistic right, to believe they’re above the law. There is also evidence of clinical psychopathy.
In other words, she’s a ruthless killer, guilty of unprecedented crimes, but that doesn’t mean she automatically possesses all the typical traits of a psychopath.
Some of the more common ones seem to be missing: she didn’t have sexual promiscuity, for example, nor does she seem to be a generally parasitic and deceptive person in all aspects of her life.
Sure, she constantly lied to the police and throughout her trial, but there was a rational reason for that: she was trying to hide her crimes. There’s no sign in these notes that she’s lying for fun or weaving a fantasy world.
She can understand, at least as a simple fact, that what she did was morally repugnant.
We call this “cognitive empathy”, knowing when other people are hurting. But it’s clear that she lacks any “emotional empathy” and can’t feel what other people are feeling.
Their pain does not make her suffer: she even derives a certain pleasure from it.
I spent hours trying to figure out Letby’s motives. Many pundits have taken to one phrase in particular: “I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to take care of them.”
But it is a mistake to take this at face value. It’s not an explanation, just a fit of self-pity.
His real motivations, I believe, are power, control and the pleasure of going through the grieving process.
There is evidence of vitriolic anger or jealousy towards the happy family unit, expressed in the words: “I will never have children, I will never marry, I will never know what it is to to have a family “.
We know Letby wanted to be there when parents were overwhelmed with grief, even when the babies who died weren’t her own patients.
She even sent a sympathy card to a family after their premature baby was murdered. Obviously, there is a morbid need to feed on their pain.
But she is not blind to emotions. In some of his scribbles, notably on a page torn from a notebook and tightly covered on both sides, Letby repeatedly writes the names of his cats, Tigger and Smudge.
Animals were a way for her to show affection and emotion, while maintaining complete control.
Lucy Letby is the most extraordinary and unique clinical case I have encountered. From what we know of her life, before concerns started to be raised about the death of babies, nothing about her seemed strange to people.
She wasn’t aggressive or impulsive, paranoid or capricious.
Her colleagues considered her to be friendly and approachable, diligent and competent.
I doubt we will ever fully understand it. Because she will never get out of prison, she is unlikely to receive the kind of intensive psychiatric support that could lead to real remorse.
Without it, it’s very unlikely that she could have a revelation explaining what she did.
The only glimpse of his poisoned and twisted mind that we’re likely to get is in those weird Post-it Notes.
Dr. Sohom Das is the author of In Two Minds: Stories Of Murder, Justice And Recovery From A Forensic Psychiatrist; Youtube: www.youtube.com/@APsychForSoreMinds; Twitter/X: @Dr_S_Das