Killer nurse Lucy Letby to die in prison after being sentenced to whole life order

Serial killer Lucy Letby was branded “evil” by the devastated families of her victims as she was jailed for life and condemned to die in prison.

The 33-year-old former NHS nurse was convicted on Friday of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six more, making her Britain’s worst ever child killer.

She preyed on tiny babies in a horrifying year-long crime spree at the Countess of Chester Hospital, injecting them with air, insulin, and milk as well as carrying out physical assaults.

Parents put their trust in Letby, who worked on the hospital’s neonatal unit, and were horrified to discover first that their baby had been killed and then to find out one of the nurses was the cold and calculating killer.

At Manchester crown court on Monday, families of the victims lined up to condemn Letby, as she shunned the sentencing hearing and cowered in her cell.

Mr Justice Goss imposed a whole life order on the serial killer, saying to the empty dock: “You acted in a way that was completely contrary to the normal human instincts of nurturing and caring for babies, and in gross breach of the trust all citizens place in those who work in medical and caring professions.”

Members of the media work near a large screen showing a picture of convicted hospital nurse Lucy Letby, ahead of her sentencing, outside the Manchester Crown Court (REUTERS)
Members of the media work near a large screen showing a picture of convicted hospital nurse Lucy Letby, ahead of her sentencing, outside the Manchester Crown Court (REUTERS)

He said there was a “deep malevolence bordering on sadism in your actions”, saying: “This was a cruel, calculating, and cynical campaign of child murder involving the smallest and most vulnerable of children, knowing your actions were causing significant physical suffering and would cause untold mental suffering .”

He said “cunning” Letby had been considered hard-working and talented by colleagues, and she used her access to the most vulnerable babies to carry out “premeditated” attacks.

“You knew the last thing anyone working in the unit would or did thing was someone caring for the babies was deliberately harming them”, the judge said.

He concluded Letby kept “morbid” trophies from the murders including medical documents charting the victims’ health deteriorating, she had a “detached enthusiasm” for the attempts to save the children she harmed, and she had a “fascination” with the babies and their familes who she targeted.

Letby will now go down as one of the most notorious killers in British criminal history, and as only the fourth woman in history – after mass murderers Myra Hindley, Rose West, and Joanna Dennehy – to be handed a whole life order.

The parent of one of Lucy Letby's victims reading a victim impact statement at Manchester Crown Court (PA)
The parent of one of Lucy Letby's victims reading a victim impact statement at Manchester Crown Court (PA)

Letby fled from her trial last week once guilty verdicts began to be returned by the jury, and has not returned to the dock. She is at court but refused to leave her holding cell.

Her refusal to appear in the dock means she did not hear heartbreaking impact statements from the parents of the babies she attacked and killed.

The mother of one baby murdered by Letby and another who the nurse tried to kill said in her statement: “You thought it was your right to play God with our children’s lives.”

She said: “Maybe you thought by doing this you would be remembered forever but I want you to know my family will never think of you again.

“From this day you are nothing.”

Another mother choked back tears as she told the absent Letby: “At least now there is no debate that, in your own words, you killed them on purpose. You are evil. You did this.”

She added: “I am horrified that someone so evil exists. To you, our son’s life was collateral damage in your persistent desire for drama, attention, praise and sympathy.”

She also told the court: “Knowing now that his murderer was watching us throughout these traumatic hours is like something out of a horror story.”

Letby was branded “wicked” and “cruel” for putting the families through a 10-month criminal trial, and accused of revelling in her crimes through the court process.

The mother of triplets who lost two of her babies to Letby’s killing spree told the court: “She has destroyed our lives.”

The mother of two children who fell victim to Letby said her decision to stay in her cell was “just one final act of wickedness from a coward”.

The Ministry of Justice has committed to changing the law to try to force criminals to appear at their sentencing hearings, after a series of no-shows from the murderers of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel, Zara Aleena and Sabina Nessa.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was “cowardly that people who commit such horrendous crimes do not face their victims”.

Education minister Claire Coutinho said on Monday morning it was “appalling” Letby would shun her sentencing hearing, but acknowledged the threat of extra time in prison would have limited effect on those facing whole life sentences.

Writing on Twitter, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said: "Lucy Letby is not just a murderer but a coward, whose failure to face her victims' families, refusing to hear their impact statements and society's condemnation, is the final insult.”

Former justice secretary Robert Buckland suggested the sentencing hearing should be played into Letby’s prison cell to ensure she hears the words of those parents whose lives she has devastated.

“She needs to hear the victim’s personal statements, as impact statements that will really bring home I think, to the wider world, the appalling devastating impact of the loss of these innocent children, these innocent babies, have had upon dozens of families”, he said.

Letby went on a killing spree between June 2015 and June 2016 while working on the neonatal unit at the hospital in Chester.

Tasking with caring for prematurely born babies, Letby injected them with insulin, air, and fluids in determined efforts to end their lives.

One of Lucy Letby’s police interviews (Cheshire Constabulary/PA) (PA Media)
One of Lucy Letby’s police interviews (Cheshire Constabulary/PA) (PA Media)

Letby was almost caught red-handed on some occasions as she preyed on the babies, but assuaged the concerns of parents and told one: “Trust me, I’m a nurse.”

In notes found after her arrest, Letby had scrawled “I am a horrible evil person” and in capital letters “I am evil I did this”.

But during her trial she denies all the charges and offered no clues as to why she had embarked on the killing spree.

Her barrister, Ben Myers KC, offered no mitigation for Letby and said she has “maintained her innocence throughout these proceedings”.

Cheshire Police has said it is now reviewing the care of around 4,000 babies who may have come into contact with Letby at the Countess of Chester Hospital and the Liverpool Women’s Hospital between 2012 and 2016.

An inquiry has been promised by the government, though it now faces sustained pressure to upgrade it to a judge-led statutory inquiry. Downing Street has not ruled out an upgrade, which would include powers to compel witnesses to give evidence.

The trial heard how consultants on the neonatal unit raised concerns about Letby but hospital bosses failed to act on the warnings.

One doctor was even told to apologise to Letby as part of a grievance process as the hospital prepared to return her to caring for children.

Alison Kelly, former Director of Nursing at the Countess of Chester Hospital, has been suspended from her role at a different NHS Trust after allegations made during the trial.

Letby was arrested at her home in Chester in July 2018. She was convicted at trial of seven murders and six attempted murders.

The judge ordered that the sentencing remarks and victim impact statements are handed to Letby in her prison cell.