Nurse speaks of tamper investigation ordeal
Tuesday 20 September 2011
A nurse accused of tampering with saline solution at a hospital spoke today of her horror at being dubbed an "angel of death" and "killer nurse" by newspapers.
Rebecca Leighton said she was "passionate" about her job and wanted to return to a "normal life" after charges against her were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) earlier this month.
"It was hard. I learned, obviously, through what I had been through, not to look too far down the line as to which way my life is going to go," she told ITV1's This Morning.
"I just had that little bit of faith that this is going to end and it has got to end because surely they have got to realise at some point that it is not me."
Miss Leighton was speaking in her first interview after being charged in July with contaminating saline solution at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, Greater Manchester.
The 27-year-old spent more than six weeks in custody but was dramatically freed on September 2 after proceedings against her were discontinued.
Last week she was cleared to return to work by the Nursing and Midwifery Council subject to conditions, despite admitting to the theft of opiate-based drugs.
But she remains suspended on full pay by Stepping Hill while inquiries continue into allegations that she stole medication.
Miss Leighton told This Morning of her disbelief when she was arrested by police in the early hours of July 20 at her home in Heaviley, Stockport.
"It was horrendous, absolutely horrendous. Obviously I was asleep, in bed, I was meant to be at work the next day and I woke up to the police banging on the door," she said.
"Even then, I just thought that the police were wanting to ask further questions, or interviews or whatever... I just wasn't expecting what was to come at all.
"Obviously, that was when they arrested me. I have never felt how I felt there and then when they said the words that they said to me."
She added: "Even when they arrested me, I thought I would be home for teatime because surely they know I have done nothing wrong."
She said she was offered the chance to appoint a solicitor at the police station on her arrest but refused to do so initially as she had nothing to hide.
"I just couldn't make sense, I couldn't string a sentence together, I just couldn't understand what was going on, why it was me that was arrested, any of it. None of it made sense to me," she said.
Miss Leighton said she had "pleaded" with the police after her arrest not to stop looking for the real culprit in the investigation.
"I pleaded with the police, every day, all the time - 'Just don't stop looking, don't stop with me because if you do then surely the person that has done these horrific things is still going to be out there'," she said.
"It worried me so much that the patients, everybody, were still going to be affected by it all."
She said she believed the media were responsible for public hostility towards her, resulting in Mr Justice Henriques refusing her bail at Manchester Crown Court on August 5 for her own protection.
"Because of how the media have portrayed me to be... they could not be any more wrong, people have formed an opinion about me, so I believe it was for that reason," she said.
She defended her portrayal in pictures posted on her Facebook page, saying she was "just being any normal girl" who was committed to her job as a nurse.
"I was just being any normal girl, I was just out with my friends having a good time," she said.
"Everybody I know does that, I have not done anything different than anybody else would, a 27-year-old girl who goes out with her friends.
"I have got a big group of friends and the media portrayed it to be that work got in the way of my social life.
"Ask any of my friends - my friends will tell you that I never used to go out half as much as they wanted me to because I had a choice of working and I ended up working because that is what I loved."
She said she had been released and left to try to resume her life in spite of being unable to walk down the street on her own.
"It's hard to even say about a having a normal life because even now my life is not normal," she said.
"I am living at my parents', I am not living where I was living. I'm not working, I can't go outside my house without people taking pictures of me.
"I can't walk down the street on my own because I'm a bit scared. Someone has always got to be with me all the time.
"It's far from normal.
"Nursing it all I have ever done. I am so passionate about my job and looking after patients, that's what I do. That's what I have worked so hard for.
"All this attention has been totally out of my control and I have been left now to try and sort everything out myself."
Asked if there was anything she would change, she said: "My name being released so early and the media publishing my name, my picture, before I was even charged. The public had a massive opinion on what the media had been portraying.
"I would have been safer if that was never done."
Miss Leighton said she hoped her ordeal had made her a stronger person.
"The way that I look at life is that anything bad that happens to you, you have got to turn it into a positive. If anything, I would like to think that I am a stronger person and learn to appreciate life more than maybe I did before," she said.
Miss Leighton said she was unable to comment on her admission, heard by the Nursing and Midwifery Council last week, of stealing drugs including an antibiotic named flucloxacillin, a box of ibuprofen and some tramadol tablets from Stepping Hill Hospital.
These were found by police searching her home.
Detectives are still investigating allegations of tampering with saline solution at the hospital and are looking at the suspicious deaths of Tracey Arden, 44, Arnold Lancaster, 71, and Alfred Derek Weaver, 83.
All three died amid fears that saline solution had been contaminated with insulin.
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