Who is nurse Lucy Letby and what led her to kill and injure neonatal babies?

  • ITV Granada Reports correspondent Mel Barham takes a look into who Lucy Letby is

The verdicts make her the UK’s most prolific child killer.

But who is she and what led her to murder seven newborns and attempt to kill six more?

Letby was an only child, born and raised in Hereford and she told the court she had always wanted to work with children.

At school, she was described by peers as a 'geek', but she had a tight-knit circle of friends.

She was the first in her family to go to university and said her career meant everything to her. She even described her job as 'her life'.

Her proud parents celebrated her achievement with an announcement in their local paper. 

Lucy Letby's proud parents celebrated her graduation with an announcement in their local paper, the Hereford Times. Credit: The Hereford Times

Letby completed her nursing degree at the University of Chester where she was first introduced to the neonatal intensive care unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

In January 2012, after graduating, she was given a full-time role on the ward where she was known as a trusted colleague.

Her colleagues would become her closest friends - on and off the unit - and she went out for drinks, to the races and to salsa with her co-workers.

Letby bought her own house in Chester, not far from the hospital, and had prints on her walls with phrases including 'Leave sparkles wherever you go', as well as teddy bears on her bed, and Disney figurines on display.

Lucy Letby wept in court as pictures of her bedroom in Chester were shown to the jury. Credit: Cheshire Police

In court, she cried when she saw the pictures of her bedroom and at the mention of her two cats, Tigger and Smudge.

Letby was chosen as a poster girl for a hospital fundraising campaign in 2013, for a campaign to raise £3 million in three years to create a new neonatal unit for the hospital.

At the time, she said she hoped it would "provide a greater degree of privacy and space for parents and siblings".

In early 2015, Letby completed a specialist training course, which meant she was one of very few staff on the ward qualified to care for the sickest babies in the high-dependency and intensive care nurseries.

But, just weeks later, a series of unexplained deaths and near fatalities began.

Between 2015 and 2016, the neonatal unit had an unusually high infant mortality rate, and hospital bosses began to investigate.

Manchester Crown Court heard Letby used her skills as a nurse to deliberately sabotage the babies' care in a way the prosecution described as 'persistent', 'calculated' and 'cold-blooded'.

In 2015, Letby became qualified to care for the sickest babies in the high-dependency and intensive care nurseries.

But did anything suggest Letby would go on to become one of the UK's most prolific child murderers?

Experts say nothing in her background seemed to suggest she was capable of the crimes she has been convicted of.

Police even described her as 'beige' - an 'average nurse' who had never been in trouble before.

Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Evans, the Deputy Senior Investigating Officer into Operation Hummingbird - the investigation looking at the deaths at the Countess of Chester Hospital - said there was nothing remarkable about Letby at all.

She added: "I would describe Lucy Letby as being beige in my experience of her.

"When I say that, I mean she is unremarkable as a person, she had a normal life with friends, a normal social life, she was a nurse in her 20s and there was nothing remarkable about what she was doing at that time.

"There isn't anything remarkable that I can tell you about Lucy Letby, other than that potentially she has used that in order to commit the crimes that she has."

Dr Sohom Das, a consultant forensic criminal psychologist, told ITV Granada Reports serial killers would usually have shown some signs of criminality before becoming so prolific.

"One thing that really strikes me about Lucy Letby's case is that there is no known history of previous offending, specifically previous violence," he said.

"Having assessed hundreds of previous offenders I would say that's exceptionally rare.

"Usually violence escalates over time, especially this level of violence, not just the killing of one individual but multiple people."

  • Dr Sohom Das says: 'It's unlike anything I've ever seen in my career'

So what motivated her to commit these awful acts?

One suggestion was that she was doing it for attention.

Letby was in constant contact with the staff on the unit and she said she was simply a committed nurse, whose work was her life.

But work became an obsession - when she was not on shift, she wanted to know exactly what was going on with the babies she had been caring for.

The prosecution claimed Letby enjoyed being in 'crisis situations' so she could share her experiences with others on the unit.

One person she particularly wanted the attention of, according to prosecutor Nick Johnson KC, was a doctor at the hospital who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Letby and the doctor - a married man - became close.

In court, she said she had 'loved him', but denied they were romantically involved.

They continued to see each other even after Letby’s removal from clinical duties, visiting London together on one occasion.

But the unnamed doctor eventually gave evidence for the prosecution, prompting tears from Letby, who considered him her 'best friend'.

  • Pascale Jones, from the Crown Prosecution Service, described Letby as 'unhinged'

"She could be very seductive," Pascale Jones from the CPS said. "And certainly her friends and colleagues were completely unsuspecting.

"She was profoundly devious and able to think ahead. Calculated, cold-blooded and sometimes completely unhinged.

"There were triggers that we were able to spot, but I prefer not to think about it.

"Seeing her text messages was enough to get a glimpse of her mindset and how manipulative she was."

Cheshire Police said the question of 'why' was something they'd not managed to answer.

"We may never know why," Detective Inspector Evans said. "We haven’t answered all of the questions for the families. That’s hard to take."

She added: "Letby was a normal 20-something-year-old. But clearly, there was another side that nobody saw.

"There has been a lack of emotion in this whole process. I don’t think anyone could sit and listen to the evidence that we’ve heard and not feel some level of sadness.

"I don’t think we’ve heard that from Letby throughout the trial."

  • Dr Das says there could be two potential reasons Letby chose some of the most vulnerable members of society to pick on

Dr Das said the image Letby portrays coupled with the crimes she committed makes her a 'very rare' offender.

He said: "Something that really stands out to me is the image she portrays of being somebody who is caring, loving, supportive and dedicated to her work is very much at odds with the horrific crimes she committed - and people, myself included, find it quite hard to marry those things.

"I would say from my experience from dealing with violent offenders the majority either telegraph their intentions in some way, or it's part of their natural characteristics and their lifestyle.

"I deal with prolific offenders who use violence on a regular basis, either thugs or drug dealers or to intimidate other people, gangs etc.

"Lucy Letby clearly doesn't fit into this category, so I think she's one of the rare people who is so cunning and deceitful that she's able to really hide her true intentions."

The verdicts make Letby one of the UK’s most prolific child killers. Credit: Cheshire Constabulary

Letby was arrested in 2018 on suspicion of eight counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder.

She was released on bail pending further enquiries.

The now 33-year-old was arrested a second time in 2019 on suspicion of eight murders and nine attempted murders; again she was bailed pending further enquiries.

Letby's final arrest was in November 2020 where she was charged with eight counts of murder and ten counts of attempted murder.

Her trial began in October 2022.

On Friday 18 August, she was found guilty of murdering seven babies and the attempted murder of six more.

Her sentencing will take place on Monday 21 August in Manchester.

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