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Nurse jailed over patient deaths could have murder convictions quashed

Review points to possible natural causes in deaths of four older women from hypoglycaemia
Picture of Colin Norris outside Newcastle Crown Court in 2007

Review points to possible natural causes in deaths of four older women from hypoglycaemia

A nurse jailed after being found guilty of murdering four older women and attempting to murder a fifth could have his convictions quashed, after an independent commission said new expert reviews suggested four of the deaths could have been due to natural causes.

Colin Norris was convicted after a five-month trial at Newcastle Crown Court in 2008, and was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 30 years. All five convictions have now been referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which said there

Review points to possible natural causes in deaths of four older women from hypoglycaemia

Picture of Colin Norris outside Newcastle Crown Court in 2007
Colin Norris outside Newcastle Crown Court in 2007 Picture: Alamy

A nurse jailed after being found guilty of murdering four older women and attempting to murder a fifth could have his convictions quashed, after an independent commission said new expert reviews suggested four of the deaths could have been due to natural causes.

Colin Norris was convicted after a five-month trial at Newcastle Crown Court in 2008, and was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 30 years. All five convictions have now been referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which said there was a possibility they were unsafe.

New expert reports casts doubt on evidence at the trial

Mr Norris was found guilty of the murder of Ethel Hall, Bridget Bourke, Doris Ludlam and Irene Crookes, and attempted murder of Vera Wilby, all of whom were inpatients on orthopaedic wards at hospitals in Leeds.

The commission, which is responsible for evaluating suspected miscarriages of justice, said in a statement: ‘The case against him was wholly circumstantial and heavily reliant on expert opinion evidence.’

The prosecution in Mr Norris’s trial said the women all died from hypoglycaemia – extremely low blood sugar – which can cause the brain and other organs to fail. This was allegedly triggered by insulin injections administered by Mr Norris, who was said to have been present at the time, or shortly before, each patient became hypoglycaemic.

The commission said Mr Norris denied any wrongdoing and maintained that he had done nothing to induce hypoglycaemia in any of the patients.

It said it had considered new expert evidence presented by Mr Norris’s representatives and had instructed its own expert to provide reports, which cast doubt on the expert opinion relied on by the prosecution at the trial. These experts believe the hypoglycaemia in four of the women – all except Ms Hall – might have been due to natural causes.

Commission sees ‘real possibility’ of convictions being quashed

‘As a result of the new expert evidence, the CCRC has concluded there is a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will decide that Mr Norris’s conviction for the murder/attempted murder of one or more of the four patients is unsafe,’ the statement said.

It said the murder of Ms Hall by insulin injection was not disputed, but the new evidence cast doubt on the assertion that no one other than Mr Norris could have been responsible.

‘As a result, there is a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will quash this conviction too,’ it said.

The Court of Appeal may order a retrial of the case if it decides to quash the convictions. There is no confirmed date yet for when the case will be considered by the Court of Appeal.


Find out more

Commission refers the murder and attempted murder convictions of Colin Norris to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Cases Review Commission)


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