Lucy Letby sentenced to whole-life order
Evil to the very end, baby murderer Lucy Letby cowered in a cell today as she was sentenced to die behind bars.
The “sadistic” nurse refused to attend court and face her victims’ distraught parents as she was given a total of 14 whole-life terms.
One mother whose newborn had been murdered by Letby, 33, with an injection of air, wept as she told her in her absence: “In your own words, you killed them on purpose.”
She added: “You are evil. You did this.”
While another grieving mother condemned Letby’s refusal to appear in the Manchester Crown Court dock as “one final act of wickedness from a coward”.
Britain’s worst child killer murdered seven babies and tried to kill six more on her neonatal unit at Countess of Chester Hospital.
The “cruel, calculated and cynical” serial killer was deliberately missing yesterday as the crying parents of her tiny victims – clutching babies’ toys –described in harrowing detail how her murderous spree had ripped their lives apart.
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Twisted Letby refused to walk from her cell under the court to hear their victim impact statements, leaving the furious mother of murdered Child E and surviving Child F to rage: “We have attended court day in and day out, yet she decides she has had enough, and stays in her cell, just one final act of wickedness from a coward.”
Outraged judge Mr Justice Goss ordered that the deeply moving testimony was to be handed to Letby to read in prison.
He added: “Lucy Letby has refused to attend court for this sentence hearing. I shall deliver the sentencing remarks as if she was present to hear them.
“And I direct that she is provided with a transcript of my remarks and copies of the victim personal statements read to the court.”
Whole life orders are imposed when someone’s crime is “so serious that they will never be released from prison”.
Only three other women have received such a sentence: the late Moors Murderer Myra Hindley, Gloucester serial killer Rose West and Joanna Dennehy, who stabbed three men to death.
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Addressing a dock containing two guards, Mr Justice Goss said the “cruelty and calculation” of Letby’s actions from June 2015 to June 2016 were “truly horrific”.
The senior judge continued: “You acted in a way that was completely contrary to the normal human instincts of nurturing and caring for babies and in gross breach of the trust that all citizens place in those who work in the medical and caring professions.”
He added that NHS handover sheets relating to all but the first four babies were discovered when police searched Letby’s home – and he was satisfied that she had kept them as “morbid records”.
Mr Justice Goss said: “There was a malevolence bordering on sadism in your actions. You have coldly denied any responsibility for your wrongdoing. You have no remorse. There are no mitigating factors.
“When employed as a neonatal nurse with specialist training in intensive care, you murdered seven babies and attempted to murder six others – in the case of one of them, trying on separate occasions two weeks apart to murder her.
“The babies you harmed were born prematurely and some were at risk of not surviving, but in each case you deliberately harmed them intending to kill them.
“In your evidence you said that ‘hurting a baby is completely against everything that being a nurse is’, as, indeed, it should be. You also claimed you never did anything that was meant to hurt a baby and only ever did your best to care for them. That was but one of the many lies.”
The judge said Letby was “outwardly conscientious, hard-working, knowledgeable” but she used those traits to target babies “without arousing suspicion”.
He went on: “You prided yourself in your competence. Your fellow neonatal nurses spoke very highly of you, and several of them became your close friends.”
However he said after a “detailed investigation” from 2018, the methods Letby “employed to carry out your murderous intent” were unmasked. The judge added: “There was pre-meditation, calculation and cunning in your actions.
“You specifically targeted twins and, latterly, triplets. Some babies were healthy, others had medical issues of which you were aware.
“The great majority of your victims suffered acute pain as a result. They all fought for survival; some, sadly, struggled in vain and died.
“You used a number of different ways to try to kill them, thereby misleading clinicians into believing the collapses had, or might have had, a natural cause or were a consequence of a developing medical condition. You took opportunities to harm babies when staff were on breaks or away from babies.
“On some occasions you falsified records to indicate there were signs of a deterioration before a collapse occurred.You knew that the last thing anyone working in the unit would or did think was that someone caring for the babies was deliberately harming them. The impact of your crimes has been immense, as disclosed by the deeply moving personal statements.
“The lives of newborn or relatively newborn babies were ended almost as soon as they began and lifelong harm has been caused, all in horrific circumstances.
“Loving parents have been robbed of their cherished children and others have to live with the physical and mental consequences of your actions. Siblings have been deprived of brothers and sisters.
“You have caused deep psychological trauma, brought enduring grief and feelings of guilt, caused strains in relationships and disruption to the lives of all the families.”
Imposing a whole-life term in each case, he said: “You will spend the rest of your life in prison.”
Nicholas Johnson KC, prosecuting, had said Letby’s offending was a “very, very clear case” for such a sentence – and her own lawyer Ben Myers KC had conceded “there is nothing we are able to add in mitigation that is capable of reducing the sentence that will be passed”.
The Crown Prosecution Service has asked for four weeks to decide if it will request a retrial concerning six remaining counts of attempted murder.
Hospital bosses have come under intense scrutiny over their actions once consultants raised concerns at Letby’s presence in the unit.
The Government has ordered a non-statutory independent inquiry into the case, including the hospital’s handling, but families and politicians have called for it to be put on a judge-led statutory footing.
Rishi Sunak said: “The important thing for the inquiry to do is make sure that families get the answers that they need, that it is possible for us to learn the lessons from what happened…everything conducted transparently and to happen as quickly as possible.”
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said a statutory inquiry gives “the power to order documents, to order witnesses to come forward so we get the fullest, proper, comprehensive analysis of what went wrong here”.
Ministers have also pledged to give judges the power to force a defendant to attend sentencing hearings, following Letby’s refusal.
The PM called her action “cowardly”, while Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said it was “the final insult”.
Tamlin Bolton, a solicitor representing the parents of seven victims in the civil courts, said Letby’s cowardice “speaks of complete disregard, not only for the damage she’s caused but it’s an insult to our judicial system and the process”.
Senior crown prosecutor Pascale Jones said: “Letby will never again be able to inflict the suffering she did while working as a neonatal nurse. She has rightly been brought to justice.”
She added: “My thoughts remain with the families of the victims who have demonstrated enormous strength in the face of extraordinary suffering. I hope that the trial has brought answers which had long eluded them.”
While Cheshire Police’s DCI Nicola Evans said: “Nothing will bring back the babies who died, or take away the pain and suffering experienced by all of the families over the years, but I hope that the significant sentence will bring some comfort at this dark time.
“Hearing their own experiences in their own words has been truly heartbreaking. I would once again like to say thank you to the families for putting your trust in us.”
Letby was convicted of murdering Children A, C, D, E, I, O and P plus attempting to murder Children B, F, L, M and N and two such attacks on Child G.
All the victims, both those who died and those who survived, and their parents have been granted anonymity by the judge in an attempt to help ease the harrowing strain on the mothers and fathers who gave evidence.
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