Air 'size of a teaspoon' deliberately given to baby allegedly murdered by Lucy Letby, court hears

Lucy Letby court case Credit: PA Images

A fatal amount of air the “size of a teaspoon” was deliberately given to a baby allegedly murdered by nurse Lucy Letby, her trial has heard.

Two expert consultant paediatricians for the prosecution told Manchester Crown Court that, in their opinion, air had entered the circulation of the infant “on purpose” via an intravenous line.

Child A is said to be the first victim of Letby, 32, who allegedly caused his sudden collapse and death on the evening of June 8 2015, more than 24 hours after his premature birth at 31 weeks.

The Crown say the baby suffered an air embolism – where a blockage in the passage of blood occurs – at the hands of the defendant.

Several witnesses have told the court the twin boy had “unusual skin discolouration” of purple or pink blotches during the collapse which would “come and go”.

Lucy Letby is accused of killing seven babies and attempting to murder 10 others. Credit: PA images

Letby is on trial accused of the murders of seven babies and the attempted murders of 10 others at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit.

Giving evidence on Tuesday, 25 October, Dr Dewi Evans said: "Just before he collapsed (Child A) was in a stable condition. He was as well as he could be expected.

"All the markers of wellbeing were very satisfactory.

"By that time (Child A) had survived the most dangerous journey of his life really."

However, he said air had “somehow” got into his circulation.

He said he said he formed the opinion at the time without knowing about the rash or any suggestion of an air embolism.

Dr Evans said he ruled out other possibilities such as infection and smothering due to Child A’s stable vital signs prior to collapse.

He said the positioning of various catheters and cannulas through intravenous lines during Child A’s treatment was also not the cause.

Nick Johnson KC, prosecuting, asked: “How does an air embolism kill somebody?”

Dr Evans said: “It interferes with the blood supply to the heart and lungs. It is the same mechanism as a clot. It blocks off blood supply and kills you.”

The Crown said Letby injected a fatal amount of air into Child A’s bloodstream within 90 minutes of coming on duty Credit: ITV News

Mr Johnson said: “As far as the means by which air could injected into a baby’s circulation, from what we know the way in which (Child A) was treated what are the possibilities?”

Dr Evans said: “Only one really. The air would have got through an intravenous line. That could only have happened in two ways – accidentally or on purpose.”

He added there was “no way” it could have been accidental because of the “failsafe systems, the alarms and the monitoring” of intravenous line equipment.

Fellow expert Dr Sandie Bohin said it was “extremely unlikely” that air was administered accidentally.

She said: “My experience is that nursing staff who either put in a line or care for the line are absolutely meticulous in preventing any air getting into those lines.

“The lines and the connecting points are filled with saline so even the tiniest of air bubbles could not get in. “It is ingrained in nursing staff.”

She said the amount of air likely to be fatal in an infant such as Child A, who weighed just 1.6 kilos at birth, was a “teaspoon of air”.

Child A’s mother wept in the public gallery as Dr Bohin said she was left with only one “plausible explanation” for her son’s collapse and death which was an air embolism.

Dr Evans said the pattern of the collapse of Child A’s twin sister, Child B, on the following night shift was “very similar” and he believed that air was probably deliberately administered in her case.

The court has heard that Child B made a “remarkable recovery” and was discharged the following month.

Dr Evans said: “The doctors did a really good job of saving her.

“Either the volume of air was less or the air had got through more slowly, or a combination of the two.”

Letby denies all the alleged offences said to have been committed between June 2015 and June 2016.