Several turned out to have been injected with insulin or other drugs and when they showed signs of distress it was often Allitt who was the first to raise the alarm. She was credited with saving the lives of several children by her prompt action, winning herself the attention she desperately craved.
She was convicted on 28 May 1993 on four counts of murder and nine counts of attempted murder.
Allitt is an extreme case of Munchausen's by proxy, but some psychiatrists believe the diagnosis is unhelpful. Dr Kerry Bluglass, a senior lecturer at Birmingham University, told the annual conference of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in June that there was no illness of Munchausen's by proxy but it was a shorthand term for the abuse of children.
Most, in her experience, were women of low intellect, often with a dominating husband, who misused hospital as a place for comfort and support and often did not realise substances such as Calpol and salt could be dangerous.
She told the conference: "It is a good idea if you can avoid labelling people. You have a better chance of understanding the patient without pushing them into denial."
Jeremy LauranceReuse content