Lucy Letby, 28, was arrested at her £180,000 home on Tuesday by detectives probing the deaths of 17 infants at the Countess of Chester Hospital, Cheshire.
Her three-bedroom semi lies a mile-and-a-half away from the hospital and police have erected a blue tent outside while they conduct searches – and interrogate her at a police station in Chester.
A Cheshire Police spokesman confirmed they had made an arrest in the road where a blue tent is positioned.
Blonde Letby’s arrest stunned colleagues because she is regarded as a champion of the children she cares for – and helped a massive fund-raising campaign to build a new £3 million baby unit at the hospital.
And she has repeatedly spoken about her devotion to her profession in a string of interviews since she graduated with a BSc Honours in child nursing in 2011.
Letby – who has two cats and is registered as living alone at her home – has "liked" Channel 4 hospital show One Born Every Minute on Facebook.
She is a member of 14 groups relating to helping sick children, including: “Save special care baby units. They need us. One day u might need them.”
In a previous interview with a local paper, Letby posed on a ward holding a babygro and described her love of the job.
She said: “I qualified as a Children’s Nurse from The University of Chester in 2011 and have been working on the unit since graduating.
“I also worked on the unit as a student nurse during my three years of training. My role involves caring for a wide range of babies requiring various levels of support.
“Some are here for a few days, others for many months and I enjoy seeing them progress and supporting their families.
“I am currently undergoing extra training in order to develop and enhance my knowledge and skills within the Intensive Care area and have recently completed a placement at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.”
When asked about the opening of a bigger neonatal unit, she said: “I hope the new unit will provide a greater degree of privacy and space.”
In an announcement in the local paper when she graduated in 2011 with a BSc Honours in child nursing, her parents said: “We are so proud of you after all your hard work. Love Mum and Dad.”
Her dad John, 72, and mum Susan, 58, live in Hereford, where she grew up.
Police launched a probe into the neo-natal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital in May last year – and have now revealed they are investigating the deaths of 17 babies and 15 non-fatal collapses.
The hospital trust raised the alarm itself following the high number of fatalities between March 2015 and July 2016.
Medics launched an internal inquiry after finding the premature babies had collapsed with heart and lung failure but were unusually impossible to resuscitate.
A report later found the babies developed strange blotches on their arms and legs after death.
Experts could not find a cause of death and police were called in to investigate in 2017.
Det Insp Paul Hughes, of Cheshire Police, said: “Since the start of our enquiries and, as the information gathering process has continued, the scope of the investigation has now widened.
“We are now currently investigating the deaths of 17 babies and 15 non-fatal collapses between the period of March 2015 and July 2016.
“Parents of all the babies are continuing to be kept fully updated and are being supported throughout the process by specially trained officers.
Key points from the damming inspection report in November 2016
- Staffing on the unit was 21 per cent than the recommended safe levels in 2014/15
- One infant needed resuscitation for several collapses over three nights – but information about this was not shared with the review team
- Pathologists at nearby Alder Hay Children's Hospital performed autopsies on "most" of the infants – but these did not include toxicology, blood electrolytes, or blood sugar tests
- The report slammed the hospital's "remote leadership" – with one medic describing them as "arm's length" from the neonatal unit
- The hospital's reporting policy for unexplained neonatal deaths was inadequate
- After resuscitation several of the infants had an unexplained sudden mottling on the arms and legs (and the chest on one occasion)
- Doctors noticed that many of the infants were surprisingly unresponsive to standard resuscitation procedures
- A panel on safety in the neonatal unit was poorly attended – with just seven of the 20 panel members turning up to a meeting in May 2016.
“This is an extremely difficult time for all the families and it is important to remember that, at the heart of this, there are a number of bereaved families seeking answers as to what happened to their children.
“This is a highly complex and very sensitive investigation and, as you can appreciate, we need to ensure we do everything we possibly can to try to establish in detail what has led to these baby deaths and collapses.”
The murder investigation follows a damning report in July 2016 from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), which found that staffing at the hospital’s baby unit was inadequate.
But the review could not find a reason for the rise in baby deaths.
It identified significant gaps in medical and nursing rotas, insufficient senior doctor cover, poor decision making and a reluctance by some staff to seek advice from colleagues.
It made 24 recommendations to improve care – including the need to review each unexpected neo-natal death in the relevant period, strengthen the response to neo-natal death and to appoint two additional consultants.
Melanie Robinson, 34, whose premature son, Noah, died following a catalogue of blunders at the hospital, said at the time: “It is good that there is a police investigation and the hospital has gone to them voluntarily.”
The arrest sparked outcry on social media, with Melissa Campion posting on Facebook: “This is really scary. To think in this time period not only was my son born so was my baby cousin and my sister’s daughter all in this hospital.
“My heart breaks for all the babies who lost there (sic) life. And whoever is responsible I hope rots in hell. Absolutely evil.”
Helen Coleman commented: “My daughter was born there during this time also. I can’t believe what I’ve just read. I hope this person gets everything that’s coming too them. Thinking of all the parents who’ve been affected.”
Chelsie-Louise Griffiths said: “This makes me so nervous that my son was there for 10 weeks! And there was possibly a murderer taking care of him.”
Det Insp Hughes added: “As a result of our ongoing enquiries we have today arrested a healthcare professional in connection with the investigation.
“She was arrested earlier this morning on suspicion of murder in relation to 8 of the babies and attempted murder in relation to 6 of the babies and is currently in custody.
“Whilst this is a significant step forward in our enquiries it is important to remember that the investigation is very much active and ongoing at this stage. There are no set timescales for this coming to a conclusion but we remain committed to carrying out a thorough investigation as soon as possible.”
Ian Harvey, Medical Director at ther Countess of Chester, said: “We are continuing to support Cheshire Police with their ongoing investigation.
Mortality rates at the neonatal unit
Figures showing the number of babies who died at the facility between 2009 and 2016:
- 2009 – 3
- 2010 – 1
- 2011 – 3
- 2012 – 3
- 2013 – 2
- 2014 – 3
- 2015 – 8
- 2016 – 5
“Asking the police to look into this was not something we did lightly, but we need to do everything we can to understand what has happened here and get the answers we and the families so desperately want.
“The Countess is now equivalent to a Level 1 special care baby unit and we are confident the unit is safe to continue in its current form.”
The hospital, which cares for around 400 babies each year, appeared as busy as ever yesterday but security guards were on patrol and stationed near the entrances.
Neil Fearn, CEO of Pryers Solicitors, a legal firm acting on behalf of two babies who received treatment at the hospital, said: “The death of any child is a tragedy but this is exacerbated in circumstances where questions remain unanswered.
“However we are reassured that the investigation is still ongoing and that there are further steps to be taken. We are hopeful that the investigation can provide answers for the families of these children.”
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