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British nurse sentenced to life without parole for murders of 7 babies

British nurse Lucy Letby mugshot
British nurse Lucy Letby was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others.
(Cheshire Constabulary)
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A former neonatal nurse who killed seven babies in her care and tried to kill six others at a hospital in northern England was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole by a judge who highlighted “the cruelty and calculation” of her actions.

Lucy Letby, who refused to appear in court to face grieving parents who spoke of their anger and anguish, was given the severest sentence possible under British law, which does not allow the death penalty.

Justice James Goss said that the number of killings and attempts and the nature of the murders by a neonatal nurse entrusted with care for the most fragile babies provided the “exceptional circumstances” required to impose a so-called “whole-life order,” which is exceptionally rare.

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“There was a malevolence bordering on sadism in your action,” Goss said. “During the course of this trial you have coldly denied any responsibility for your wrongdoing. You have no remorse. There are no mitigating factors.”

Following 22 days of deliberation, a jury at Manchester Crown Court convicted Letby, 33, of killing the babies over a yearlong period that saw her prey on the vulnerabilities of sick newborns and their anxious parents.

The victims, who were given anonymity and listed only by letters, such as Child A and Child B, died in the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital in northwest England between June 2015 and June 2016.

Friends and colleagues are struggling to come to grips with how the woman they knew as a consummate professional and kind caregiver could be involved in such a horrific chain of events.

Aug. 12, 2022

“I don’t think we will ever get over the fact that our daughter was tortured till she had no fight left in her, and everything she went through over her short life was deliberately done by someone who was supposed to protect her and help her come home where she belonged,” the mother of a girl identified as Child I said in a statement read out in court.

Prosecutor Nicholas Johnson said Letby deserved a whole-life order for “sadistic conduct” and premeditated crimes.

Defense lawyer Ben Myers said Letby maintained her innocence and that there was nothing he could add that would be able to reduce her sentence.

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Some families suffered multiple tragedies, as Letby targeted three sets of twins and a set of triplets.

A mother of twins was left to grieve the loss of a son and blame herself when her family — who vigilantly watched over the second infant after the first one’s death — let their guard down and Letby struck again, harming the boy’s sister, who survived.

“Little did we know you were waiting for us to leave so you could attack the one thing that gave us a reason to carry on in life,” the mother said.

Nurses launched a 10-day strike at Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park, accusing management of failing to address short staffing, broken equipment and inadequate safeguards to protect nurses from violent attacks.

Aug. 18, 2023

The parents of triplets lost two of their babies; the third survived after being transferred to another hospital. The couple said in a video played in court that Letby had ruined their lives.

“The anger and the hatred I have towards her will never go away,” the father said. “It has destroyed me as a man and as a father.”

One father called Letby “the devil” and said she had tried to kill his daughter twice. The nurse didn’t succeed, but the girl was left blind, with brain damage and having to be fed through a tube.

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“Every day I would sit there and pray. I would pray for God to save her,” the father of Child G said. “He did. He saved her, but the devil found her.”

Letby’s absence from the courtroom, which is allowed in Britain during sentencing, fueled anger from the families of the victims, who wanted her to listen to statements about the devastation caused by her crimes.

Delays in transfers can put people at higher risk of complications and derail day-to-day life for patients.

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“You thought it was your right to play God with our children’s lives,” the mother of twins, one of whom was murdered and the other whom Letby tried to kill, said in a statement to the court.

Politicians and victim advocates have called for changes in the law to force criminals to appear for sentencing after several high-profile convicts chose not to face their victims in recent months.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who called the crimes “shocking and harrowing,” said his government would bring forward in “due course” its plan to require convicts to attend their sentencings.

“It’s cowardly that people who commit such horrendous crimes do not face their victims and hear firsthand the impact that their crimes have had on them and their families and loved ones,” Sunak said.

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During Letby’s 10-month trial, prosecutors said that in 2015 the hospital started to see a significant rise in the number of babies who were dying or suffering sudden declines in their health for no apparent reason.

Some suffered “serious catastrophic collapses” but survived after help from medical staff.

Letby was on duty in all of the cases, with prosecutors describing her as a “constant malevolent presence” in the neonatal unit when the children collapsed or died. The nurse harmed babies in ways that were difficult to detect, and she persuaded colleagues that their collapses and deaths were normal, they said.

Senior doctors said over the weekend that they had raised concerns about Letby as early as October 2015 and that children might have been saved if managers had taken their concerns seriously.

Nurses at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and UCSF Medical Center at Parnassus say patients are doubled up in rooms or lie in gurneys in hallways.

March 1, 2023

Dr. Stephen Brearey, head consultant at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit, told the Guardian newspaper that deaths could arguably have been avoided as early as February 2016 if executives had “responded appropriately” to an urgent meeting request from concerned doctors.

Letby was finally removed from front-line duties in late June 2016. She was arrested at her home in July 2018.

An independent inquiry will be conducted into what happened at the hospital and how staff and management responded to the spike in deaths.

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After Letby was arrested, police found a note in her home that served as a chilling confession: “I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them,” she wrote. “I am a horrible evil person.”

The mother of Child C wept on the witness stand as she spoke of the loss of her firstborn, a “feisty” and “defenseless baby boy.”

She had worn her son’s handprints and footprints around her neck to remember him. The subsequent realization that the person who took those prints — Letby — was the same person who took his life tainted the memory, she said.

“There is no sentence that will ever compare to the excruciating agony that we have suffered as a consequence of your actions,” she said. “At least now there is no debate that, in your own words, you killed them on purpose. You are evil. You did this.”

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