Lucy Letby: baby had ‘extraordinary’ discoloured patches on skin

Giving evidence at the murder trial at Manchester Crown Court, registrar told the jury that the death of Child A was ‘incredibly unexpected’

Giving evidence at the murder trial at Manchester Crown Court, registrar told the jury that the death of Child A was ‘incredibly unexpected’

Court sketch of Lucy Letby
Court sketch of Lucy Letby Picture: Alamy

A baby allegedly murdered by nurse Lucy Letby had ‘extraordinary’ discoloured patches on his skin which a doctor had never seen before, a court has heard.

Child A, a newborn twin, died at the Countess of Chester Hospital on 8 June 2015 after efforts to resuscitate him failed.

‘This was a completely stable, well baby who had no reason to deteriorate,’ jury told

Giving evidence on Wednesday at Manchester Crown Court, registrar Dr David Harkness told the jury his death was ‘incredibly unexpected’.

‘This was a completely stable, well baby who had no reason to deteriorate. I was very surprised to be called back,’ said Dr Harkness.

‘There was very unusual patchiness on his skin which I had not seen before. There were patches of blue/purple colour, patches of red and of white that didn’t fit.’

He said the patches were all over the body and were ‘there from shortly after the event started’.

He added: ‘Unfortunately I have seen lots of babies who have had the pattern that fits with death or dying and I have not seen these.’

Care given to Child A on the unit was ‘suboptimal’, says defence

The Crown say Ms Letby injected a fatal amount of air into Child A’s bloodstream within 90 minutes of coming on duty.

The defence do not accept this and say the care given to Child A on the unit – not by Ms Letby – was ‘suboptimal’.

Dr Harkness agreed with Ben Myers KC, defending, that the discoloured patches struck him as ‘something quite extraordinary’. He also accepted he did not make a recorded note of those particular skin colour changes at the time.

He said it was ‘something I only picked up later’ when similar further incidents with babies took place at the hospital.

The doctor accepted that although he had mentioned the colour changes in in police statement in 2018, he did not mention the ‘striking’ skin patchiness in a statement to the coroner ahead of Child A’s inquest in October 2016.

Mr Myers said: ‘I am going to suggest there is a possibility that by this point the discussions had set in your mind about this colour when it really had not been there at all.’

Dr Harkness disagreed. Asked by junior prosecutor Simon Driver if he was sure about Child A’s ‘unusual’ skin discolour, he said: ‘Categorically yes. There was skin discolouring.’

Neonatal nursery assistant had only known a ‘couple of deaths’ during her time at the unit, court hears

The court also heard from Lisa Walker, a neonatal nursery assistant who had worked at the unit for about seven years. She said she had only known a ‘couple of deaths’ during that time.

‘I remember coming in to work to see another baby had died and remember thinking, ‘What on Earth is happening?’ she said.

The jury has been told Child A did not have intravenous fluids for up to four hours on 8 June before he received glucose through a long line at 8.05pm, co-signed by Ms Letby and fellow nurse Melanie Taylor.

Earlier on the shift, a cannula to a blood vessel stopped working, followed by two failed attempts to correctly insert a catheter in the belly button.

Dr Harkness fitted the long line, but removed it shortly after Child A’s sudden deterioration, the court was told. At the time his contemporaneous notes queried whether the inserting of Child A’s long line could have been linked to his death, which he later explained as a ‘knee jerk reaction’.

Jury hears evidence from paediatric radiologist

On Friday the jury heard evidence from Dr Owen Arthurs, who told the court he noted an 'unusual finding' on the post-mortem X-ray of Child A, which showed a line of gas in front of the spine.

Paediatric radiologist Dr Arthurs told the jury that its appearance was ‘consistent with, but not diagnostic, of air having been administered’.

He said such an image would not be seen in deaths by natural causes but had been documented in cases of road traffic accidents and sepsis infection.

But he could not say from the image alone that an air embolism – a gas bubble which enters a blood vessel – was the cause of Child A’s death.

Jurors were told that Dr Arthurs, professor of radiology at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, had been instructed to review X-rays taken of Child A – when alive and after death – as well as other babies in the investigation.

The radiologist also reviewed the X-rays of Child A’s twin sister, Child B, who the Crown say Ms Letby attempted to murder via an injection of air on the following night shift at the neonatal unit.

Dr Arthurs said he found ‘no significant abnormalities’ on her radiographic images, including on a X-ray taken 40 minutes after Child B suffered a sudden collapse, which the Crown say Ms Letby was responsible for.

Ms Letby denies all charges. The trial began on 10 October and is expected to last six months.

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