Lucy Letby: ‘unusual’ levels of gas found in two baby triplets

The brothers died on consecutive days while under the care of the nurse, who is accused of deliberately injecting them with fatal doses of air

The brothers died on consecutive days while under the care of the nurse, who is accused of deliberately injecting them with fatal doses of air

A close-up photo of nurse Lucy Letby smiling broadly
Lucy Letby Picture: Shutterstock

An ‘unusual’ amount of gas was detected in a baby just hours after his brother was allegedly murdered by nurse Lucy Letby, a court has heard.

Ms Letby is alleged to have administered fatal doses of air to both infants, who died at the Countess of Chester Hospital on successive days in June 2016.

Lucy Letby accused of giving fatal doses of air to babies

Referred to in court as Child O, the first of the infants to die – one of identical triplet boys – was pronounced dead at 5.47pm on 23 June, two days after he and his brothers were born and in good condition.

Following his death, his brother, Child P, was reviewed in the neonatal unit by a consultant who ordered an abdominal X-ray. The X-ray, taken just after 8pm, showed ‘gas filled loops throughout the abdomen’, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Ms Letby was the designated nurse for Child O and Child P on the day shift of 23 June and continued to care for Child P the following day.

Parents ‘begged’ for hospital transfer for surviving triplet

On 24 June, Child P collapsed on numerous occasions from 9.35am onwards and required resuscitation after his heart rate and blood oxygen levels plummeted. Staff, including Ms Letby, were unable to revive the infant after his final collapse at about 3.15pm and he was pronounced dead at 4pm, the court heard.

A transport ambulance team had arrived at the hospital at 3pm to transfer Child P to a specialist hospital. After he died, his parents ‘begged’ the ambulance team doctor to take their surviving son instead, which he agreed to do.

Unusual amount of gas for a ‘normal’ baby

Ms Letby is charged with the murders of seven babies and the attempted murder of 10 others at the hospital between June 2015 and June 2016. She denies the charges.

Giving evidence on Thursday 16 March, Great Ormond Street Hospital professor of radiology Owen Arthurs said the 23 June X-ray of Child P was ‘very similar in appearance’ to one that had been taken of Child O.

‘This is gas throughout the gut,’ he told the court. ‘This degree of gas is quite unusual in a baby like this.’ He said potential causes were infection or necrotising enterocolitis, a common intestine disorder in premature babies. An alternative explanation was the administration of air via a nasogastric tube, he said.

Dr Arthurs concluded the same regarding an X-ray of Child O, captured hours before his death. He said: ‘This shows a lot of gas in his stomach, small and large bowel. This is more than what would be expected in a normal baby.’

He agreed with Ben Myers KC, defending, that another possible explanation for Child P’s dilation was an ‘unidentifiable cause’.

Designated day shift care for three triplets

On 24 June Ms Letby was also assigned the day shift care of the surviving triplet, the court heard.

Ahead of the shift, a doctor, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, messaged Ms Letby and asked: ‘Are you OK? It’s rubbish not to sleep well in the middle of three long days. Hope your day goes OK.’

Ms Letby replied: ‘Hmm maybe. I’ll be watching them both (Child P and the surviving triplet) like a hawk.

‘I’m OK. Just don’t want to be here really. Hoping I may get the new admissions.’

The trial continues.

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