Lucy Letby's killing spree is a painful reminder of a previous evil

Beverley Allitt, known as the "Angel of Death", was the first nurse in British history to kill children in a hospital - but tragically, she is not the last, reports Rachel Townsend

"There can never be another."

The words of a former colleague of the first British nurse convicted of killing children in a hospital.

Harrowingly, we now know that Beverley Allitt, who murdered four children and attempted to murder three more at a hospital in Lincolnshire, was not the last nurse to kill babies in her care.

Friday’s verdicts in the trial of Lucy Letby shocked the whole country.

It is almost impossible to imagine the grief experienced by her victims’ families; already mourning the death of their newborn babies, only then to discover that they should never have died.

Letby could not have targeted a more vulnerable group. Those babies, some only hours old, could not fight back. Some certainly tried.

Just as they tried at Grantham and Kesteven Hospital in 1991 when they were under the care of Beverley Allitt.

Beverley Allitt pictured arriving at Grantham Magistrates Court in 1991. Credit: PA

And the parallels, tragically, do not end there.

Doctor Charith Nanayakkara worked almost every shift with Allitt.

For a while that even put him in the frame.

He spoke exclusively to ITV News and revealed how he is still haunted by Allitt’s crimes over 30 years later.

"We were working with a criminal who was with us and who was part of the team, and that was very upsetting," Dr Nanayakkara said.

"We did not know that there was a murderer among us."

But Dr Nanayakkara did have concerns about a death on his ward - concerns that he tried to raise but claims were ignored.

They began after the death of Allitt’s first victim, seven-week-old Liam Taylor.

Dr Nanayakkara could not explain Liam’s sudden collapse on Ward 4.

And so in the days after his death, he requested a second post mortem in a bid to get some answers. But the request was refused.

Despite his attempt to persuade the coroner to order a specialist post mortem examination, Dr Nanayakkara was later criticised in the Clothier report - focused on the circumstances surrounding Allitt's crimes after her conviction - for not raising his suspicions sooner.

“It makes me feel very upset, very guilty. And I feel I'm responsible for that death," he said.

"She did so much destruction to a whole lot of babies.

"Babies who are completely innocent and helpless.

Dr Charith Nanayakkara: 'We should not have a Beverley Allitt in the world again, full stop.'

"We had a cold-blooded murderer among us and none of us knew."

Just as in the Letby case, much of the evidence was circumstantial.

And again, as with Letby, the breakthrough came when detectives established that every time a child collapsed, Beverley Allitt was on shift.

Former Detective Superintendent Stuart Clifton led the Allitt investigation and spoke to ITV News.

The crucial development came with a blood sample from five-month-old Paul Crampton which showed a catastrophic amount of insulin in his blood.

"That analysis showed that little Paul Crampton had got 47,000 milli-units of insulin in his blood when he should have had something in the order of 10 to 15 - it was the second-highest ever recorded in a human being," Mr Clifton said.

Former Detective Superintendent Stuart Clifton led the Allitt investigation. Credit: ITV News

"So here, for the first time, instead of having unexplained collapses, we had one simple explanation and that was that somebody on that ward was actually using insulin to poison children."

Paul's father, David Crampton, told ITV News he remembers speaking to Allitt while his son was severely ill.

"Paul was in a bad way. He was clammy and sweaty," he recalled.

"I remember Allitt. She said, 'I think he is hypo,' which is short for hypoglycaemic.”

"I remember her being there after that first attack. She was a rather unremarkable and quite junior member of staff... It’s a series of highs and lows, you find out that someone has done that to your child, but you’re also thinking, 'There’s nothing wrong with Paul'."

Paul made a full recovery, but when other children suffered similar unexplained collapses, suspicion began to build.

Paul Crampton survived the attacks on his life made by convicted child killer Beverley Allitt. Credit: ITV News

Allitt was taken into custody and just like Letby, she told lie after lie.

"Beverley Allitt was a very strange girl," Mr Clifton told us.

"You could sit and chat with her about everyday events, pop groups, football, anything.

"The minute you started to ask about the events that occurred at Grantham Hospital, she distanced herself from those events, saying, 'Well, I wasn't there on that day. I was having lunch when that happened.'

"She even went on to say that that perhaps it's the heat in our plumbing system in the hospital."

In a haunting parallel, Letby told her trial: "We used to have raw sewage coming out of the sinks, coming out on the floor."

David Crampton, father of victim Paul, makes a statement on behalf of families affected by Allitt's killings in 1993. Credit: PA

Letby said this could have played a role in the unexplained deaths and collapses of babies as staff were unable to clean their hands.

"There are so many parallels," adds Stuart Clifton.

"It’s almost as if somebody has read the book. And that these are copycats."

What no-one can comprehend is what drives people like Letby and Allitt to carry out such hideous crimes.

Psychologists cite a desperate need for attention from both killers.

But when does that need for attention turn into such extreme criminality?

Dr Dominic Willmott has written at length on the psychology of Beverley Allitt.

“They have shared characteristics," he told ITV News.

Lucy Letby was sentenced to a whole life order after she murdered seven babies and the attempted to murder six others. Credit: Cheshire Constabulary/PA

"It is the power they feel in their ability to take or give life.

"They have an ability to allow life to continue or for that life to end.

"They gain some enjoyment over speaking to those family members who are going through that, knowing they've caused that and not being affected and not trying to hide themselves."

Allitt has never said why she killed these children. Nor has Letby.

Indeed, there can be no explanation as to why anyone would murder tiny, defenceless, newborns, the most innocent and fragile members of society.

Allitt was known as the "Angel of Death." She carried out the unthinkable.

And now with Lucy Letby, it has happened again.

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