Nurse accused of poisoning hospital patients ‘chose victims at random’

Victorino Chua killed and harmed patients at Stepping Hill Hospital by contaminating their saline drips, a jury was told

A nurse accused of murdering three patients and injuring 18 others by poisoning them with insulin caused panic at his hospital while choosing his victims “completely at random”, a court has heard.

Victorino Chua, a 49-year-old nurse who worked at Stepping Hill Hospital, killed and harmed patients by contaminating their saline drips or altering their drug-prescription dosage charts, a jury was told today.

The Philippines-born and Manila-trained nurse denies all charges, including murdering the Stockport hospital’s patients Tracey Arden, 44, Arnold Lancaster, 71, and Derek Weaver, 83, in July 2011.

The prosecuting barrister, Peter Wright, QC, told Manchester Crown Court that 21 patients on wards A1 and A3 suffered as a result of “the poisoner’s handiwork”.

Most made a full recovery, but 41-year-old Grant Misell suffered a devastating brain injury due to a hypoglycaemic episode triggered by  the insulin.

There was a certain “understandable degree of panic” on the wards after patient Zubia Aslam, 24, was poisoned with insulin and her bag of saline was found to be contaminated, Mr Wright said. “That fear started to spread like wildfire through the hospital.”

Mr Chua, a married father-of-two who had been working in Stepping Hill for five years after coming to work in the UK in 1992, was on duty when the first patient, Josephine Walsh, fell ill in June 2011, the court heard. The jury was told that 17 others had sudden, unexpected episodes of hypoglycaemia but every time Mr Chua moved wards, the medical episodes ceased.

Security measures were put in place once the poisonings were discovered and the then-mystery poisoner changed his modus operandi to altering drug dosages on patients’ medical records.

The finger of suspicion initially pointed to others, including nurse Rebecca Leighton, who was found to be innocent. But a partial palm print matching Mr Chua’s was found on one of the altered records, the court heard.

The trial, which is expected to last up to four months, continues.