Lucy Letby: nurse injected air into baby’s stomach, trial hears

Prosecution alleges neonatal unit nurse’s third attempt to murder child failed, but she went on to kill the infant within days
Neonatal unit nurse Lucy Letby, smiling

Prosecution alleges neonatal unit nurse’s third attempt to murder child failed, but she went on to kill the infant within days

Neonatal unit nurse Lucy Letby, smiling
Nurse Lucy Letby denies multiple counts of murder and attempted murder Picture: Shutterstock

A doctor recalled ‘unusual’ mottling on the skin of a baby girl allegedly murdered by nurse Lucy Letby, a jury heard.

Ms Letby is accused of injecting air into the infant’s stomach via a feeding tube during a night shift at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit in Chester in October 2015. The prosecution claims it was the defendant’s third attempt to kill the baby before finally succeeding more than a week later.

Child I’s abdomen became distended

Giving evidence on Wednesday, registrar Matthew Neame told Manchester Crown Court the premature baby, known as Child I, was stable when he examined her at 10.05pm on 13 October. He said he thought Ms Letby asked him to see Child I at in the early hours of 14 October as her oxygen requirements had increased. On examination, Dr Neame noted the child’s abdomen was distended, mottled and there was some tenderness.

Dr Neame told the court: ‘I don’t recall it clearly but it’s unusual to see mottling on the abdomen. My impression was the increase in abdomen distension may have caused [Child I’s] lungs to be squashed… making it hard for her to breathe.’

The court heard Ms Letby retrospectively noted that at 5am Child I’s abdomen was ‘more distended and firmer in appearance with area of discolouration spreading on the right side’.

The defendant, who was Child I’s designated nurse, noted she gave antibiotics at 5.05am. She also retrospectively noted that at 5.30am Child I’s ‘abdo distended ++’.

Staff’s attempt at CPR was successful

Jurors were told that at 7am, Child I had a significant drop in blood oxygen levels and heart rate. At 7.45am, her heart rate fell dangerously low, to below 60 beats per minute, Dr Neame said, which prompted medical staff to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This took thirteen minutes before she recovered, the court was told.

The court has heard evidence of numerous babies having a mottled, discoloured appearance before collapse.

Ben Myers KC, defending, asked Dr Neame: ‘Your view is mottling normally means circulation is not as good as it should be?’

Dr Neame replied: ‘That’s right.’

Mr Myers enquired: ‘And the underlying cause could be infection in some cases?’

Dr Neame said: ‘Yes [but] when seen infection is usually accompanied by other signs.’

Mr Myers asked: ‘Or low oxygen levels?’

‘It can be,’ replied Dr Neame.

The prosecution alleges Ms Letby, originally from Hereford, went on to murder Child I in the early hours of 23 October.

Lucy Letby denies murdering seven babies and attempting to murder ten others between June 2015 and June 2016.

The trial continues.

The card’s message was shown to the jury

Accused nurse wrote sympathy card to baby’s grieving parents, jury told

The jury heard Ms Letby wrote a sympathy card to Child I’s grieving parents and took a photograph of the card on her mobile phone before the baby’s funeral, on 10 November 2015.

The card read: ‘There are no words to make this time any easier. It was a real priviledge [sic] to care for [Child I] and get to know you as a family – a family who always put [Child I] first and did everything possible for her.

‘She will always be a part of your lives and we will never forget her. Thinking of you today and always – sorry I cannot be there to say goodbye.

‘Lots of love Lucy x’

Opening the prosecution case in October 2022, Nick Johnson KC said the defendant had told detectives it was ‘not normal’ for a nurse to send such a card.

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