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Boy patient died an hour after being 'stable'

THE LAST of the epileptic fits that put Timothy Hardwick on Ward 4 had passed. He was asleep, his breathing and heart rate stable. Within 30 minutes of those checks, Nurse Beverley Allitt raised the alarm, a murder trial jury at Nottingham Crown Court was told yesterday. Timothy was dying.

Attempts to restart his heart were abandoned at 6.15pm on 5 March 1991. Timothy had been on the children's ward of Grantham and Kesteven District Hospital, Lincolnshire, for little more than two hours. Although aged 11, he was as vulnerable as any of Ms Allitt's alleged victims on Ward 4. He was brain-damaged, spastic, epileptic and blind.

Ms Allitt, 24, denies murdering Timothy and three other patients. She also pleads not guilty to 11 charges of attempted murder.

Timothy had suffered an exceptional bout of fits while at school in Newark, Nottinghamshire. He arrived still wearing a cannula, the plastic valve that enabled him to be connected to a drip or to be injected with drugs from a syringe, the jury was told. He was 'rousable and responsive - not in a fit'.

Heather Skayman, a student nurse, checked him twice, she told the court. There was nothing unusual about Timothy's pulse, temperature or breathing. Her last check was made between 5pm and 5.30pm. Timothy had not been connected to a drip, and Ms Allitt had been asked by Staff Nurse Mary Reet to look after him.

Mrs Reet said Ms Allitt asked her to see Timothy because his breathing was 'strange'. Mrs Reet said: 'He was very pale, he was very cold to the touch. He had the appearance of having died. He was not having a fit.'

Earlier, a specialist in child medicine told the jury that he could not understand why it proved so difficult to restart the heart of another alleged victim, a baby boy who suffered a cardiac arrest.

Dr Charith Nanayakkara, a consultant paediatrician, said he had been summoned in the early hours after seven-week-old Liam Taylor had a cardiac arrest.

Although Liam had severe pneumonia, the doctor said he had noticed some slight improvement in his condition the previous evening. But when he saw the infant at the hospital a few hours later he appeared to look 'virtually dead'.

Liam suffered an acute respiratory arrest leading to brain damage and he died on 23 February 1991. Dr Nanayakkara said he asked without succcess that a specialist paediatric pathologist should carry out the post-mortem examination, as he was 'gravely concerned' by the death.

The court was told that Ms Allitt had been allocated to look after Liam. It was alleged she had been alone with him on a couple of occasions.

The trial continues today.