British child-killer nurse given whole-life prison sentence

Anastasia Clark - Agence France-Presse
British child-killer nurse given whole-life prison sentence
Image shows a feet of a newborn baby.
Image by Rainer Maiores from Pixabay

LONDON, United Kingdom — A British nurse was jailed for life on Monday, with no prospect of release, for murdering seven newborn babies and attempting to kill six others while they were in her care.

Lucy Letby, 33, was convicted of killing five baby boys and two baby girls, making her the UK's most prolific child serial killer in modern history. 

She was arrested following a string of baby deaths at the neonatal unit of the Countess of Chester Hospital in northwest England between June 2015 and June 2016. 

The prosecution said Letby attacked her vulnerable prematurely born victims, often during night shifts, by either injecting them with air, overfeeding them with milk or poisoning them with insulin.

"Today's sentence means Letby will never again be able to inflict the suffering she did while working as a neonatal nurse," said Senior Crown Prosecutor Pascale Jones.

Following a trial that started in October, a jury at Manchester Crown Court ended more than 100 hours of deliberations on Friday.

Letby was in the dock as the jury returned the first guilty decisions earlier in August. 

But she refused to come up from the cells for her sentencing on Monday.

"You acted in a way that was completely contrary to the normal human instincts of nurturing and caring for babies," judge James Goss said, addressing Letby in her absence. 

He said there was "premeditation, calculation and cunning" in her actions, with a "deep malevolence bordering on sadism".

"You have no remorse," the judge said, ordering her to be given a written copy of the sentencing remarks and the families' victim impact statements.

"There are no mitigating factors."

Goss said that "because the seriousness of your offences are exceptionally high, I direct that the early release provisions do not apply". 

"The order of the court therefore is a whole life order on each and every offence and you will spend the rest of your life in prison," the judge said. 

Letby is just the fourth woman in England and Wales to receive a whole life term, with notorious serial killers Rose West and Myra Hindley among those handed the harshest sentence.


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

The leader of the main opposition Labour party, former chief prosecutor Keir Starmer, promised to close the "shamefully exploited loophole" if elected to government.

However, legal experts suggested that practical issues involved in bringing unwilling defendants to court could scupper such plans.

Letby's absence on Monday meant she did not hear the families' victim impact statements.

"You thought it was your right to play God with our children's lives," the mother of a twin boy and girl who were attacked in June 2015 said in a statement read to the court.

The baby boy was murdered while his elder sister survived.

The father of two brothers killed by the nurse, who were part of a set of triplets, said: "Lucy Letby has destroyed our lives".

"The anger and the hatred I have towards her will never go away," he said in a pre-recorded video statement.

After the death of the two triplets in June 2016, Letby was removed from the neonatal unit and placed on clerical duties.

She was arrested for the first time in July 2018. On her third arrest in November 2020, Letby was formally charged and placed in custody. 

Motive unclear

Letby's motives remain unclear. During the trial, the prosecution said Letby "gaslighted" her colleagues into believing the rise in baby deaths was "just a run of bad luck".

The court heard that Letby took an unusual interest in the families of her victims, making searches for them on social media.

She also sent a sympathy card to the grieving parents of a child she was later found guilty of murdering.

Handwritten notes found during police searches at Letby's home were among the evidence seen by the court, one of which had "I am evil I did this" written in capital letters. 

The jury cleared Letby, who denied all the charges, of two counts of attempted murder and were unable to reach decisions on six other counts.

The government has announced an independent inquiry into the case and will look at how the concerns of clinicians were dealt with by hospital management. 

The hospital's executives have come under fire for failing to act sooner on concerns about Letby, which were reportedly raised by senior doctors as early as 2015.

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