Nurse recalls ‘unusual’ rash on baby allegedly murdered by Lucy Letby

A nurse with more than 20 years’ experience was “struck” with a rash that appeared on a baby allegedly murdered by Lucy Letby, a court heard.

Caroline Oakley told Manchester Crown Court she had previously never seen the “unusual” rash in any newborn infant.

The baby girl, referred to as Child D, is said to be the third child murdered by nurse Letby in a two-week period, with another youngster suffering a life-threatening collapse during the same time.

Mrs Oakley was the designated nurse for Child D in the neo-natal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital on the night shift of June 21 2015, jurors heard.

Letby, 32, was assigned to two other babies in the same intensive care room.

Countess of Chester Hospital police investigation
Child D was being cared for in the neo-natal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital (Peter Byrne/PA)

Mrs Oakley said Child D was “stable” from when she came on shift at 8pm and up to 1.30am on June 22.

She said: “I remember being very happy with her.”

But at 1.30am she was called to the nursery, the court was told.

Giving evidence from behind a screen, Mrs Oakley said: I remember being on my break, I had only been gone half an hour.

“I remember going into the nursery and saying ‘what’s happening?”

Her nursing notes recorded that Child D’s oxygen levels had dropped and she had lost colour.

She also recorded: “Discolouration to skin observed. Trunk, legs, arms, chin.”

Mrs Oakley said: “I don’t remember specifically the exact rash but I remember I had not seen it before. It was dark, It was unusual.

“The rash struck me. I had not seen that rash on a baby I had looked after.”

She went on: “I struggled to describe it. I remember it as a deep red/brown but different to mottling.

“Sometimes when a baby is poorly they lose their colour and they have a mottled appearance all over, where this was just a rash specifically in those places. That is what stayed with me.

“You don’t really get rashes on babies.”

A doctor was called and Child D “responded quickly” to treatment and the rash was resolved.

Mrs Oakley said: “Everything was back to normal parameters I would say in about an hour and we had made some changes because she was fairly stable again.”

She noted that Child D was “crying” at 3am and her oxygen levels had decreased again.

Lucy Letby court case
Nurse Caroline Oakley was giving evidence at Manchester Crown Court (Steve Allen/PA)

Child D “picked up well” after she received breathing support, she wrote, and added: “Skin discoloured again but less than previously.”

Asked for her recollection about this note of Child D’s skin colour, Mrs Oakley told prosecutor Simon Driver: “I just remember it being not as pronounced. It was not as bad but I was not expecting her to be poorly again.”

The court heard Child D’s monitor alarm sounded at 3.45am and the newborn stopped breathing.

Resuscitation commenced but Child D was pronounced dead at 4.25am.

Mrs Oakley said her memory of the alert was “just a blur”.

She said: “I remember it being very busy. I don’t know exactly where I was. I could have been in the room or just out the room in the nursing station. I don’t have a clear memory.”

Ben Myers KC, defending Letby, asked the witness: “Round about the time this happened was there some discussion on the unit that people had seen an unusual rash on one or more other babies?”

Mrs Oakley replied: “I do remember that.”

Mr Myers said: “And people comparing their recollections of what they had seen in other babies?”

Mrs Oakley said: “I can’t remember the specifics but people had commented on a different rash recently.”

The Crown says Letby injected a fatal amount of air into Child D’s bloodstream.

Mr Myers has previously told the jury there was more evidence that infection played a part in her death and the hospital failed to provide adequate care.

Letby, originally from Hereford, denies the murders of seven babies and the attempted murders of 10 others at the Countess of Chester Hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.

The trial continues on Monday.