'Traumatised' Stockport death charge nurse in hiding

The nurse freed after spending six weeks in prison charged with contaminating saline at Stepping Hill hospital in Stockport was in hiding yesterday after leaving her parents' home.

Rebecca Leighton's solicitor, Carl Richmond, said his client had fled the house where she sought refuge following her release from Styal Women's Prison in Cheshire on Friday when the Crown Prosecution Service dropped charges against her.

Neighbours said Miss Leighton and her family waited for reporters to leave the close in Denton, Manchester, where they have a semi-detached house, before slipping away on Saturday evening. She is understood to be staying with relatives as the investigation into seven deaths at the hospital continues.

"They just wanted to get away, it is not easy having press and TV cameras camped on your doorstep," said a neighbour. "I think they want time together to think about what they do next. I know they are very upset Rebecca was locked up for so long without any real evidence against her. It has been a frightening experience."

Mr Richmond said that he would meet his client later this week to discuss whether to pursue a civil case for damages against the police. He said Ms Leighton had been made a "scapegoat" and was still traumatised from her time in prison. "This has been a living nightmare for Rebecca," he said.

Police indicated that Ms Leighton had not been ruled out of the investigation into the patients' deaths. Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney, who has defended the decision to charge Miss Leighton, said: "Nobody has been discounted at this point in time."

Greater Manchester Police is planning to interview about 500 more people, including staff, patients and visitors, out of more than 700 who could have had access to the area during the time the tampering may have taken place. Detectives investigating the deaths connected with sabotaged saline drips have said there is a "high probability" that two of the deaths were caused by contaminated products.

Arnold Lancaster, 71, Tracey Arden, 44, and Derek Weaver, 83, all died at Stepping Hill and police believe up to four more deaths could have resulted from saline ampoules being contaminated with insulin.

Mr Richmond said police "jumped the gun" in charging Ms Leighton with causing criminal damage with intent to endanger life, two days after she was arrested at her flat on 20 July. "The hospital was struggling to function – it suited them that someone was named as the culprit," he said. "And the Nursing and Midwifery Council were very quick to act [in suspending her] without analysing how the case is progressing. Rebecca Leighton wants her professional name restored, but one of her decisions for the future is whether or not she wants to continue working in nursing anyway."

During the bail application last month, it emerged the evidence against the nurse amounted to her fingerprint being on a saline bag thought to have been damaged by a needle. Mr Richmond said: "Police concluded it had, in fact, not been damaged. We then had fingerprints of other individuals on other contaminated items but my client's fingerprints were not on them."

Simon Csoka, barrister for Ms Leighton, said: "The evidence against her was very circumstantial." But he added that Ms Leighton will be able to bring a civil case against the police only if she can show, "malice rather than negligence" in charging her.

Heightened security measures remain in place at Stepping Hill. A spokeswoman for the Nursing and Midwifery Council said the interim order suspending Ms Leighton will remain.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Heskey's aim has improved since the end of his English football career

Long after his career in English football has ended, Emile Heskey's impotency in front of goal remains an object of ridicule.

Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam