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Nurse Lucy Letby tried to kill baby hours after making celebration banner, court told

The Independent logo The Independent 02/12/2022 Lucy Skoulding

Lucy Letby tried to kill a baby hours after she helped make a banner to mark the girl becoming 100 days old, a court heard.

The baby reached the milestone after she was born “very, very prematurely”, weighing only 535 grams.

Doctors at Wirral’s Arrowe Park Hospital gave the girl a 5 per cent chance of survival but she stabilised and months later was well enough to be transferred to the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Weeks later, on the evening of 6 September 2015, nursing staff on the neonatal unit, including Ms Letby, put up a party banner in celebration of the baby’s 100th day of life.

The infant’s parents joined in the celebrations as a cake was brought into the unit, Manchester Crown Court heard.

They later went home but received a call in the early hours of the next morning to say their daughter had vomited.

Medics noted the baby, referred to as Child G, had projectile vomited at about 2am and her abdomen appeared “purple and distended”.

Her oxygen levels dropped and she stopped breathing several times over the next few hours before she responded to breathing support on ventilation.

The Crown says Ms Letby overfed Child G with milk through a nasogastric tube or injected air into the same tube.

On the afternoon of 7 September she messaged an on-duty colleague, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, to ask if Child G was going to be transferred from the Countess of Chester.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Lucy Letby (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire) © Provided by The Independent Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Lucy Letby (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)

The colleague said the girl was “improving a bit now” but noted that her leg and arm “both went white”.

Ms Letby replied: “Not well at all, is she. Poor parents.”

She later messaged: “How are parents?”

The colleague said: “Devastated but determined she’ll get through ‘as always’. Thought that if she got to 100 then they would feel confident she’d be fine.”

Ms Letby said: “Awful isn’t it. We’d all been sat at desk at start of the shift making banner.”

The defendant later told her colleague: “Needs to go out.”

The colleague replied: “Too sick to move.”

Ms Letby said: “Oh no. Any idea what’s caused it?”

The colleague said: “Nope. Just seems to be a circ (circulatory) collapse, chest seems clear.”

Ms Letby responded: “Hmmm. What can cause that? Is it that she’s been an extreme prem who had long term inotrope and vent dependency and now she’s older and doing more for herself and it just takes a little bug or something to tip her over as no reserves and chronic lung etc.”

Her fellow nurse said: “We are going with sepsis...and yes to no reserves, she looks grim.”

The court heard that Ms Letby visited the unit briefly later that evening.

She later messaged her colleague - who had finished her shift - saying: “She looks awful doesn’t she.”

Her colleague replied: “Yeah. Going to APH (Arrowe Park Hospital) ...So no better. Damn. I have a bad feeling. At least they know APH.”

Ms Letby said: “Not looking good but yes least going to where she is known. Just hope they get here there.”

Her colleague said: “Hmmmmm not sure they will.”

Ms Letby said: “On today of all days.”

Her colleague replied: “Yup poor parents.”

Ms Letby said: “Yeah she’s declining bit by bit.”

Child G was transferred at 3am on 8 September to Arrowe Park, where she recovered and was moved back to the Countess of Chester more than a week later, the court heard.

The Crown says Ms Letby made two more attempts to murder Child G on 21 September

Jurors were told Child G now has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and requires round-the-clock care.

In a statement read to the court, Child G’s mother recalled an occasion when Ms Letby told her to wait in the parents’ room while she took her daughter’s bloods.

She left for a coffee, she said, but decided to return early and was greeted by her daughter “freaking out and screaming”.

The mother said: “She (Child G) looked so puzzled. Lucy was with another member of staff, trying to calm her down. They let me hold her in the end because that is what calmed her down - cuddles.”

Recalling the birth, she said: “She was only 1lbs 2oz, just a little tiny thing - fighting. During her time at Arrowe Park we had something like five discussions with doctors about her not making it. But she showed the doctors she was a fighter.

“She was seven weeks old when I was finally allowed to hold her for the first time. I remember the day my daughter was moved to HDU (high dependency unit) because she was smiling and really alert with the nurses. I would read to her and sing to her. I noticed a change in her getting stronger at Arrowe Park.

“At 12 weeks old they said she was doing so well that she could go to Chester. She was nearly full term when she got to the Countess. She was about 35 weeks and weighed 4lbs.

“She was there for two weeks and then turned 100 days. The nurses did a banner and a cake. I remember it was Lucy looking after her that day.

“The hospital then phoned to tell us (Child G) had vomited. We were told she was OK but when we got there she was in intensive care with all the machines. It was such a shock she looked like she was going to die.”

Child G’s father said he and his wife noticed “something had changed” after the vomiting incident.

He said: “When she was in the incubator at the Countess before the vomit, I would speak to her and she would smile react to my voice. Once she had vomited she seemed different and didn’t respond to my voice any more.”

Child G was discharged in November 2015 but a MRI scan at the age of two-and-half-years old showed the “true extent of her brain damage”, he said.

He said Child G is also visually impaired and that her life expectancy is not known.

Ms Letby, originally from Hereford, denies murdering seven babies and the attempted murders of 10 others between June 2015 and June 2016.

The trial continues.

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