Convicted baby-killing nurse Lucy Letby was caught ‘virtually red-handed’ trying to murder ‘very premature’ newborn in hospital, jury hears

Convicted baby killer Lucy Letby was caught ‘virtually red-handed’ as she tried to murder a newborn baby at the Countess of Chester Hospital, a jury heard today.

Letby, 34, was convicted in August last year of the murders of seven babies and the attempted murders of six other infants at the Countess of Chester hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.

The jury at Letby’s 10-month trial at Manchester Crown Court was unable to reach verdicts on six counts of attempted murder in relation to five children.

At the same court, the former nurse is now being retried over one of those counts – an allegation that she tried to murder a baby girl, known as Child K, in February 2016.

Ravi Jayaram, a senior paediatrician on the neonatal unit, walked into the high-dependency Nursery 1 to see Letby alone in the room and standing over Baby K’s incubator.

The infant’s saturation levels were falling to a critical level but the alarm that should have alerted staff was not sounding.

Nick Johnson KC, prosecuting, told a jury at Manchester Crown Court: ‘We say Lucy Letby was caught virtually red-handed by Dr Jayaram’.

Listen to The Mail’s coverage of The Trial of Lucy Letby: 

Letby, 34, was convicted in August last year of the murders of seven babies and the attempted murders of six other infants 

The jury at Letby's 10-month trial at Manchester Crown Court was unable to reach verdicts on six counts of attempted murder in relation to five children. She is being retried over one of those counts

The jury at Letby’s 10-month trial at Manchester Crown Court was unable to reach verdicts on six counts of attempted murder in relation to five children. She is being retried over one of those counts 

He said the attempt on the baby’s life happened within hours of her ‘very premature’ birth in the early hours of February 17, 2016.

At the time Baby K collapsed there were only two nurses covering all four nurseries on the unit – Letby and one of her colleagues, Sophie Ellis.

Dr Jayaram was distracted as he made a call to arrange the baby’s transfer to a higher-level hospital, while two nurses had briefly left the unit. One of these, Joanne Williams, who was Baby K’s designated nurse, had gone to see the infant’s mother.

‘The allegation that we make is very straightforward,’ said Mr Johnson. ‘While Nurse Williams was out of Nursery 1 Lucy Letby was with Baby K. She was there on her own and K collapsed.

‘That is what Dr Jayaram saw when he walked in, having spoken to the transport team. The ventilator was breathing for Baby K, and she was connected to another machine checking her heart rate and saturations, which were set to pre-determined levels.

‘If there was an issue alarms would have sounded, but they didn’t. The reason was that somebody had disabled them.

‘So when Dr Jayaram walked into the nursery he saw that Lucy Letby was standing over K. The baby’s saturation levels were falling but the alarm was not sounding. Not only that, but Lucy Letby was doing nothing.

‘We say that in those circumstances the only reasonable thing for a nurse to have done was call for help and/or use the Neopuff to breathe for the child.

‘The reason she desaturated was because the ET tube had been displaced. You can take it as evidence that it was Lucy Letby, the convicted murderer, who had displaced the tube’.

He added: ‘This event wasn’t the only time Baby K de-saturated and displaced her tube on that shift. It happened twice more’.

Baby K died later after being transferred to a different hospital. Mr Johnson told the jury: it was not suggested that Letby’s actions had caused her death, but that she had tried to kill her.

The jury was told earlier today that Letby’s conviction over the murder of seven babies is an ‘important piece of the evidence’ when deciding if she tried to kill another infant.

Nick Johnson KC, prosecuting, told the jury of six men and six women: ‘As his lordship told you yesterday, and most of you know already, there was a very lengthy trial about a year ago in which she was convicted of seven murders and six attempted murders.

‘That makes 13 children. Here we are dealing with a baby who is the 14th.’

He added: ‘All that happened while Lucy Letby was working as a nurse in the neonatal unit of the Countess of Chester Hospital in Chester. Those other cases I’ve mentioned do have an importance in this case’.

The prosecutor suggested the relevance of those cases was that it would help them decide on the case before them.

‘Putting it in a nutshell, we assert that her status as a multiple murderer and an attempted multiple murderer is important evidence for you to take into consideration when you are deciding whether you’re sure she attempted to murder Baby K’.

Mr Johnson said the convictions gave the jury significant evidence as to Letby’s intention regarding Baby K.

The jury were shown a series of documents that included a neonatal unit review schedule, a floorplan of the unit, and the locations of individual babies at the start and end of particular shifts.

The allegation is that Letby tried to murder Baby K on February 17, 2016. 

Letby was the designated nurse for two babies in Nursery 2 at the time. Baby K was in Nursery 1, and it was events there that gives rise to certain questions.

The jurors have been given iPads so they can access a variety of court documents. They were played a walkthrough video showing each of the four rooms in the unit.

Mr Johnson told them that what the barristers in the case told them was ‘not the evidence’. They were merely suggesting what they saw as important evidence to look out for, and to identify ‘what the battle lines are’.

Mr Johnson told the jury that by this stage Letby had murdered five children and attempted to murder three more. She had twice tried to murder one of the latter group.

He read out the names of the victims and the dates on which they were killed. The first was a baby boy on June 8, 2015, the second another boy on June 14. Other murders followed on June 22, August 4 and October 23.

She had also attempted to murder a baby girl on June 9/10, a boy on August 15 and another girl on September 21.

She committed the murders and attempted murders between June 2015 and June 2016 at the Countess of Chester Hospital (pictured), where she worked

She committed the murders and attempted murders between June 2015 and June 2016 at the Countess of Chester Hospital (pictured), where she worked

Letby, of Hereford, watched on from the dock of Manchester Crown Court (pictured) as the opening statement was delivered

Letby, of Hereford, watched on from the dock of Manchester Crown Court (pictured) as the opening statement was delivered

‘After what we allege she did to Baby K Lucy Letby went on to murder two of three triplets on consecutive days, June 23 and 24 2016.

‘By then she had also tried to murder two other children, a pair of twins on April 9, and finally a by on June 3.

‘That will be part of the agreed facts’.

The prosecutor said Letby had carried out frequent Facebook searches on some of the babies’ relatives.

He said the mother of Baby K was already in labour when she arrived at the Countess of Chester Hospital shortly before 10am on February 15.

Her baby was ‘very, very premature’ with a gestation of 24 weeks and six days.

Medical staff had wanted to transfer her to a higher level hospital, but the nearest available unit was at Preston. Rather than risk the baby being born in the back of an ambulance, the decision was taken for her mother to remain at Chester.

The infant was born at 2.12am on February 17. Early on she did ‘remarkably well for a child of her immaturity’.

Her ‘Apgar’ scores were 4 out of 10 at five minutes, 9 out of 10 at five minutes and 9 out of 10 at 10 minutes.

Babies scoring seven and above are considered to be in good condition.

At the time of the birth Letby is known to have been with a nursing colleague, Joanne Williams, in Nursery 2. Records showed that she had countersigned for a baby’s medication.

Letby, of Hereford, watched on from the dock as the opening statement was delivered. 

She has always denied harming any child in her care and maintains her innocence. 

The trial continues.  

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