Nurse charged over deaths at hospital

A nurse has been charged by police in connection with the deaths of five patients at a hospital in Stockport.

The arrest comes as it was announced that dozens more deaths could be reviewed by detectives.

Rebecca Leighton, 27, was charged with three counts of causing damage with intent to endanger life, three counts of criminal damage being reckless as to whether life would be endangered and one charge of theft, and one count of theft of medicine from the hospital. The charge comes after three days of questioning by detectives from Greater Manchester Police. The maximum term for the charges is life imprisonment.

Friends and family of Ms Leighton, from Heaviley, Stockport, have expressed astonishment at her arrest, saying she was dedicated to her job. On the same day that Ms Leighton was charged, the inquiry into the five suspected fatal cases of malicious tampering continued to widen. The South Manchester Coroner John Pollard has indicated that he will look again at all unexplained deaths at Stepping Hill hospital since 7 July as well as those that occur in the future.

It was reported yesterday that up to 50 deaths could now form part of the investigation, however police would not confirm this figure. Greater Manchester Police admitted it was likely that more cases would now be considered by the 60 detectives working on the investigation. Last night, an 84-year-old woman, who was identified as a possible victim on Thursday, was named as Vera Pearson. Her family was too upset to comment.

Mrs Pearson died on 14 July, and her case was referred to the police after a post-mortem examination found she had been suffering from low blood sugar. Until now, the investigation has focused on 14 patients who were in wards A1 and A3 at the hospital. She was not included in the original 14 cases – nine of whom have now recovered.

It is believed that saline drips were adulterated with insulin causing patients to experience sudden low blood sugar levels. The devices are used to rehydrate patients who are ill. Staff must now work in teams of two while dispensing medication, and the saline has been moved to locked cupboards.

Officers are trawling through medical records and forensic material. The task of looking back at other unexplained deaths at the hospital could take months.

Stepping Hill has reopened to ambulances after emergency patients were diverted away for five days.

The suspected victims so far include mother-of-two and grandmother Tracey Arden, 44, of Heaviley, who died on July 7. She was suffering from multiple sclerosis. Retired photographer Arnold Lancaster, 71, of Romiley, died on July 11. George Keep, of Cheadle, who had lung cancer, died on July 14 after being admitted with a broken hip. Widower Alfred Weaver, 83, died on Thursday, 10 days after suffering a hypoglycaemic episode.

None of the causes of death has been officially confirmed and police are awaiting further pathology tests.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy