Lucy Letby, a British nurse convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six more, has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
The 33-year-old killed the newborns between 2015 and 2016 by overfeeding them with milk, poisoning them with insulin, or injecting them with air, while working as a nurse in the neonatal unit of the Countess of Chester Hospital in northern England.
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Condemning her actions at Manchester Crown Court, judge Justice Gross said on Monday: “You acted in a way that was completely contrary to the normal human instincts of nurturing and caring for babies.
“You deliberately harmed them intending to kill them. In your evidence, you said that hurting a baby is completely against everything that being a nurse is, as indeed it should be.”
Listing her other offences, which included making “inappropriate remarks” after the deaths of the babies, Judge Gross handed her sentence which was “a whole life sentence for every offence”.
“You will spend the rest of your life in prison,” he said.
While Letby refused to appear in court, families of the victims were present.
“Lucy Letby has destroyed our lives. The anger and the hatred I have towards her will never go away. It has destroyed me as a man and as a father,” said the father of two children who were murdered by Letby.
Journalists present at the court described the hearing as “harrowing” on social media.
The most harrowing two hours I've ever spent in a courtroom. I spent some of it writing through tears. The families' statements – delivered to an empty dock where Letby should have been sitting – were utterly shocking from start to finish. https://t.co/Eg2K0627eq
— Josh Halliday (@JoshHalliday) August 21, 2023
Letby reportedly did not wish to follow the hearing via videolink, from prison.
According to local media reports, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak slammed Letby as “cowardly” for not being present.
“I think it’s cowardly that people who commit such horrendous crimes do not face their victims and hear firsthand the impact that their crimes have had on them and their families and loved ones,” he said.
“We are looking and have been at changing the law to make sure that that happens, and that’s something that we’ll bring forward in due course,” he added.
British Labour Party leader Keir Stammer said in a social media post: “That criminals can cowardly hide away is a shamefully exploited loophole.”
As Director of Public Prosecutions, I saw how crucial it is for victims and their families that perpetrators appear in court.
That criminals can cowardly hide away is a shamefully exploited loophole, and one Labour will close.
Victims must be at the heart of our justice system.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) August 21, 2023
Letby has been on trial since October.
The prosecution described her as a “calculating” woman who used methods of killing that “didn’t leave much of a trace”.
She had repeatedly denied harming the children.
During searches at her home, police found hospital paperwork and a handwritten note on which Letby had written: “I am evil, I did this.”
But Letby tried to explain the note by saying she wrote it after being placed on clerical duties following the death of the two triplets – and said that four senior doctors were trying to pin the blame on her.
Reporting from London, Al Jazeera’s Sonia Gallego said that consultants at the hospital who noticed a pattern and increase in deaths while Letby was on shift had notified the hospital’s management, but were not taken seriously.
“One of the consultants even hinted that for the management, there were more concerns about reputational damage rather than the damage that had been done to these babies,” Gallego said.
“The fact that it took a whole two years, from that first murder to when the police were called to look into it, is in itself an enormous scandal,” she said.
“We are extremely sorry that these crimes were committed at our hospital and our thoughts continue to be with all the families and loved ones of the babies who came to harm or died,” Dr Nigel Scawn, Medical Director at the Countess of Chester Hospital, said in a statement on Friday and added that they are ensuring that “lessons continue to be learnt” from this case.
Before her sentencing, senior NHS manager Allison Kelly was suspended from her role for failing to act on doctors’ complaints about the nurse, according to local media reports.
While Letby has become one of the most notorious serial killers in British history, her case has also revived memories of two of the United Kingdom’s infamous medical murderers, doctor Harold Shipman and nurse Beverley Allitt.