A neonatal nurse who was arrested on suspicion of murdering eight babies and attempting to kill another six, is being investigated at a second hospital. Lucy Letby, 28, was arrested on Tuesday as police investigate her connection to 17 babies' deaths at the Countess of Chester Hospital during 2015 and 2016. Officials were seen searching her £180,000 home in Chester, with a blue tent erected outside. They also searched her parents' home in Hereford.
Ms Letby's arrest is part of a year-long probe into the death of the babies and 15 non-fatal collapses at the neonatal unit. On Wednesday, Liverpool Women's Hospital announced it was working with police in their investigation. Ms Letby completed a work placement at the hospital for extra training after graduating in 2011. If the neonatal nurse is convicted of murdering eight babies, she would become Britain's most prolific child killer.
Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust said in a statement: 'A healthcare worker currently involved in a police investigation undertook placements at Liverpool Women's during their training.
'We are co-operating with police as part of their investigation which includes a routine review of patients cared for on our neonatal unit during the time of these placements. There is currently no suggestion that any patients at Liverpool Women's came to any harm in relation to this investigation.'
Ms Letby, who has been described as awkward but kind-hearted, began working at Chester Hospital after graduating from Chester University in 2011. The 28-year-old has a clean record with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and was even the face of a campaign to raise £3 million for the unit.
At the time, she said: 'I enjoy seeing them progress and supporting their families.'
One friend of the Letby's described Ms Letby as a 'professional nurse' who was dedicated to her 'dream job' and 'wouldn't hurt a fly'.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said: 'We're still reeling from it to be honest. The woman continued: 'Even after sleeping on it I think everybody around here is still in a state of shock and disbelief. Lucy was doing the job she dreamed of doing and appeared nothing but dedicated and professional. You can't imagine her hurting a fly let alone defenceless babies.'
Another resident on the street, who also did not want to be named, added: 'I can't add much more to what's been already said about her.
'I knew her when she was a little girl and she was as sweet as anything. I've seen her grow up and she seemed a lovely woman. So this is news is deeply and utterly shocking. I can't fathom it. When you hear of these sort of things, you always get one or two people saying 'I thought there was something fishy about them'. But with Lucy all you will hear is positive things.'
A shop worker at a store close the the family home said: 'They pop in now and again and they are a very polite family. They all seem very friendly and normal.
'Its shocking as its a nice area and we rarely see police around here.'
Letby was determined to take up nursing after leaving her comprehensive school in Hereford. She was described as 'geeky' and always wanted to do good by helping out with charitable causes. She was the face of a £2m appeal to build a new paediatric unit at the hospital in 2013.
Jordan Sands, who knew her through a former girlfriend, said: 'She was quite awkward and geeky but seemed like a kind-hearted person.'
Another friend, who asked not to be named, described her as 'an amazing person'.
Detective Inspector Paul Hughes, who is in charge of the investigation, described Ms Letby's arrest as a 'significant step forward'. He revealed the scope of the probe had been widened since police took up the case and they are now examining the care of 32 babies, 17 of whom had died.
Ian Harvey, the hospital's medical director, said that he is confident that the neonatal unit is now safe and is an equivalent to a level 1 special care baby unit.
Police were called in by the hospital last May after a damning 2016 report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health found staffing at the unit was inadequate.
Although the review could not find a reason for the increase in baby deaths between June 2015 and June 2016, it identified a string of concerns. These included 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.
Two babies died on the unit in 2013 and three in 2014, but mortality rates jumped to eight deaths in 2015 and by June 2016, five babies had already died that year.
The increased mortality rate prompted the hospital to stop caring for babies born before 32 weeks and to close its three intensive care cots. A source last night told the Mail that a member of staff at the hospital had been suspended around 12 months ago and that 'everyone from cleaners to doctors' had been interviewed by detectives. An NHS source told the Times, Ms Letby was transferred from clinical duties in late 2016. The source said: 'They moved her into admin, they didn't move her to another nursing position. If they did think she was suspicious why didn't they suspend her'.
DI Hughes described the case as 'highly complex and very sensitive', adding: 'We recognise that this investigation has a huge impact on all of the families, staff, and patients at the hospital as well as members of the public. Parents of all the babies are continuing to be kept fully updated and are being supported throughout the process by specially trained officers. 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.'
Shocked neighbours of Miss Letby's parents in Hereford described her as 'very career-driven', and said she had been dedicated about getting a job in the NHS.
Number of babies who died at the facility
Figures show the number of babies who died at the facility rose in 2015 and 2016.
2009 - 3
2010 - 1
2011 - 3
2012 - 3
2013 - 2
2014 - 3
2015 - 8
2016 - 5
Solicitors representing some of the bereaved parents said they were 'hopeful the investigation can provide answers'.
On Tuesday, police arrived at Miss Letby's modern £180,000 three-bedroom semi-detached house in Chester, about a mile from the hospital. A car with an NHS parking permit in the windscreen was moved from the driveway as a police tent was erected, and officers were seen removing items from the property.
One neighbour said: 'I was woken by a police car arriving. This is a very quiet road and you don't expect it to happen right on your street.'
Interviewed in 2013, Miss Letby said she had worked at the neonatal unit since graduating as a children's nurse from the University of Chester two years previously. Pictured holding a tiny sleepsuit in support of a local newspaper's fundraising appeal, she added: '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.'
In 2011, her parents, John and Susan, posted a message in their local newspaper along with a picture of their daughter proudly wearing her mortar board hat to congratulate her on graduating with honours. Officers were yesterday speaking to Mr Letby, 73, and his 58-year-old wife at their home.
One neighbour said their only child was 'a very career-driven person', describing her as 'so dedicated to her job. Her parents have been my neighbours for at least 25 years, so I watched Lucy grow up,' she said. 'Lucy lives away but visits them frequently as any good daughter would. They adored her ... they'd just got back from a week-long holiday in Torquay.' She added: 'I just truly can't believe it. She was a delight. Her parents must be going through hell.'
Neil Fearn, of Pryers Solicitors, who is representing the family of a baby who died at the unit, said: 'We are hopeful that the investigation can provide answers for the families of these children.'
Police say the investigation is still ongoing and urged anyone with any information to contact Operation Hummingbird detectives, or go through Crimestoppers. That police are holding Ms Letby on suspicion of murder suggests they suspect her of intending to kill the babies, rather than having done so due to incompetence or by accident. The police inquiries came after a damning report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) could not find a reason for the rise in baby deaths from June 2015 to June 2016.
The report 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. While just two babies died on the unit in 2013 and three in 2014, mortality rates jumped to eight deaths in 2015 and by June last year five babies had already died there.
The hospital carried out a number of independent expert medical reviews into the deaths before calling in police.
By Cheyenne Rountree And Richard Spillett | Mailonline
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