Beverley Allitt detective reflects on Lucy Letby’s case
Lucy Letby: Cheshire Constabulary share footage from arrest
The detective who brought child-killing nurse Beverley Allitt to justice three decades ago said he never expected to see such a similar case in his lifetime.
But retired Detective Superintendent Stuart Clifton said, in his view, Lucy Letby’s crimes were so similar she may have even been inspired by the so-called “Angel of Death”.
Letby, 33, became Britain’s worst ever child killer after she was convicted on Friday of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others while working on the neonatal unit of the Countess of Chester Hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.
She was found not guilty of two charges of attempted murder.
The jury at Manchester Crown Court was unable to reach verdicts on six further counts of the same offence.
It followed a six-year investigation and a 10-month trial which has cost an estimated £17million.
It has been reported detectives are contacting families whose children they believe may have been harmed by Letby.
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Cases under review cover her time at the Countess of Chester Hospital from January 2012 to the end of June 2016, and her two work placements at Liverpool Women’s Hospital in 2012 and 2015.
It is understood at least one family from the Liverpool hospital has been contacted by police as the investigation continues.
Mr Clifton believes Letby may have drawn inspiration for her crimes from Allitt, due to the number of similarities in the methods used by the evil pair.
Letby misused medical equipment and medicines, including insulin, to cause babies to unexpectedly collapse across day and night shifts.
Allitt, now 54, was convicted of murdering four infants, attempting to murder three, and causing grievous bodily harm to a further six at the children’s ward of Grantham and Kesteven Hospital, Lincolnshire, between February and April 1991.
She administered large doses of insulin to at least two of the victims and a large air bubble was found in the body of another. She received 13 life sentences at Nottingham Crown Court in May 1993.
Mr Clifton, 79, from Boston, said: “You don’t expect people in the caring profession to actually commit atrocious crimes like this. I didn’t expect to see another case like Allitt. She was clearly, in many ways, abnormal, in the sense that she suffered from Munchausen’s syndrome from childhood.
“That doesn’t appear to be the same with Letby. Nevertheless the means that have been used – insulin, air etc – are very similar and it is almost as if Letby read the book.”
The Government has announced an independent inquiry will be held to establish how Letby was able to kill for so long, despite concerns being raised by senior doctors long before she was arrested. Some of the victims’ families have called for a public inquiry, which has greater powers.
Mr Clifton added: “Another thing in common is the failure by the hospitals to act quickly enough to shut these things down. With Allitt, there were 24 collapses in 59 days and you would have thought when the graph began to rise someone would take some action to discover why.
“There was a time Letby was taken off frontline duties and you would have thought they would have set up something to ensure she could not harm more children.”
Letby refused to attend court for the finals days of her trial and has indicated she will not attend tomorrow’s sentencing. She follows a string of high-profile killers who refused to attend to learn their fate.
They include Thomas Cashman, who murdered Olivia Pratt-Korbel, nine, last August, and Connor Chapman, who shot dead Elle Edwards on Christmas Eve. Their refusals led to a pledge from the Government to introduce a law to compel offenders to attend court – but that has yet to be implemented.
Former education minister Brendan Clarke-Smith said: “I’d drag them kicking and screaming into the courtroom if necessary, whether that’s in handcuffs or whatever. They don’t get a choice of whether they go to jail or not so they shouldn’t have a choice of whether they turn up for the sentencing or not.”
No motive for Letby’s crime spree has been established by police.
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Mr Clifton said he saw Allitt after her sentence and tried to get an explanation for her actions, but she walked away. He said: “It is always difficult to know what the motive is. We sort of concluded Allitt liked to be centre stage. A psychologist said that is not the case with Letby and there are subtle differences in personality.”
Meanwhile, the chief of the Royal College of Nursing has claimed racism was partly responsible for whistleblowers about Letby being ignored.
Dr Ravi Jayaram was among several consultants who raised concerns about her in June 2015.
But he has revealed he was instead told to apologise to the nurse.
The RCN’s president, Sheila Sobrany, tweeted: “If we are going to learn anything from this case we need to stop denying that racism is a serious issue in the NHS.
“This doctor would have been listened to if he was white and Lucy Letby would have been stopped sooner if she wasn’t white.”
Meanwhile, the hospital boss accused of shutting down concerns about Letby has walked away from the NHS with a £1.5million pension pot.
Tony Chambers was CEO at the Countess of Chester Hospital and greeted Queen Camilla – then the Duchess of Cornwall – during a royal visit to the NHS facility in 2014.
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