Court hears killer nurse Lucy Letby was ‘caught virtually red-handed’ dislodging child’s breathing tube

Court artist drawing of Lucy Letby giving evidence during her trial at Manchester Crown Court, where she is accused of attempting to murder a baby girl in February 2016 (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)
Court artist drawing of Lucy Letby giving evidence during her trial at Manchester Crown Court, where she is accused of attempting to murder a baby girl in February 2016 (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)

Killer nurse Lucy Letby has denied she further targeted a baby girl to mislead her colleagues into believing the infant was dislodging her own breathing tube.

Letby, 34, is on trial at Manchester Crown Court accused of the attempted murder of a baby, known as Child K, while she was working a night shift at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neo-natal unit on February 17 2016.

She was convicted last August by another jury of the murders of seven babies and the attempted murders of six others at the hospital between June 2015 and June 2016, but a verdict on the allegation concerning Child K could not be reached and a retrial was ordered on that single count.

The Crown say she deliberately dislodged Child K’s breathing tube and was “caught virtually red-handed” by consultant paediatrician Dr Ravi Jayaram when he walked into the unit’s intensive care nursery room one at about 3.45am.

In the hours that followed on the same shift it is said she interfered with replacement tubes for the newborn on two more occasions in a bid to cover her tracks.

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Giving her second day of evidence on Tuesday, Letby – who wore a black suit with a navy blue and white polka dot top – denied she harmed Child K in any way.

Cross-examining, Nick Johnson KC said: “You tried to kill her didn’t you?”

Letby replied: “No, I did not.”

Mr Johnson said: “Thereafter you tried to create the impression that (Child K) was habitually desaturating and dislodging her own tube, didn’t you?”

“No,” said Letby. Letby agreed that Child K had been given an infusion of morphine after 4am.

Mr Johnson said: “Do you accept the fact she was sedated with morphine meant she would not have been active?”

Letby said: “She would be relaxed but she could have moved if she wanted to.”

Lucy Letby is accused of the attempted murder of a baby (Cheshire Constabulary/PA) (PA Media)
Lucy Letby is accused of the attempted murder of a baby (Cheshire Constabulary/PA) (PA Media)

A portable X-ray machine was brought into the neo-natal unit shortly before 6.10am to record a scan for Child K, the court heard, which showed the breathing tube in the correct position.

Up to 15 minutes later Child K desaturated again as the Crown suggested Letby went into nursery one to return some notes to the infant’s cotside.

Mr Johnson said: “Those two events are connected, aren’t they?

“No,” said Letby.

Mr Johnson said: “Just as later on (Child K) collapsed for a third time when you were there, didn’t she?”

Letby said: “According to the staff accounts, yes. I don’t have any recollection of it myself.”

Letby was said to have shouted for help and was seen to use a breathing device on Child K when her fellow nurses came into nursery one at about 7.30am.

Mr Johnson asked: “Do you accept what they say?”

Letby said: “I think that sounds like actions I would be taking if it was happening.”

Mr Johnson went on: “So you do accept it?”

Letby replied: “I don’t think I can comment on whether someone is telling the truth or not. I only know what I know.”

The prosecutor pointed out that Letby’s two designated babies on the shift were in nursery two ahead of the morning handover to the day shift.

He asked: “Why were you in nursery one?”

Letby said: “I can’t tell you that but Joanne (Child K’s designated nurse) was not in the room at that time. Somebody would have to be in the room.”

Mr Johnson said: “Because she was not there you took the opportunity to destabilise (Child K) for a third and final time, didn’t you?”

“No,” said Letby.

Mr Johnson said: “(Child K) was well sedated by this stage, wasn’t she?”

Letby said: “She was on morphine, yes.”

The breathing tube was found to have moved a fifth of the way in from where a doctor had placed it, jurors heard.

Mr Johnson said: “Relatively speaking, a long way?”

“Yes,” said Letby.

Mr Johnson said: “That’s because you pushed it in, didn’t you?”

Letby replied: “No.”

Mr Johnson reminded jurors that a nursing expert had told the court the incident should have been reported verbally by Letby to Child K’s designated nurse and written up in the nursing notes.

He asked Letby: “Why didn’t you record this event?”

Letby said: “I can’t answer that.”

Mr Johnson said: “I will offer an answer for you, because you didn’t want there to be a written record of your involvement in this third extubation of this extremely premature child.”

Letby said: “I disagree. If I had been involved any of the nurses would have written I had been involved.”

Mr Johnson said: “You tried to kill (Child K), didn’t you?”

“No,” said Letby.

Mr Johnson said: “Just like you tried to kill six other babies.”

“No,” said Letby.

Mr Johnson said: “And succeeded in murdering seven other babies.”

“No” said Letby.

Child K was transferred to a specialist hospital later on February 17, 2016, because of her extreme prematurity. She died there three days later, although the prosecution does not allege Letby caused her death.

Letby, of Hereford, denies a single count of attempted murder. On Monday she told the court she had never harmed any baby in her care and was “not guilty of what I was found guilty”.

A court order prohibits reporting of the identities of the surviving and dead children involved in the case.

The trial continues next Monday when the judge will begin to sum up the case to the jury of six women and six men, followed by closing speeches from the prosecution and defence.