'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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Ugne, 32, is a Lithuanian bodybuilder
tvThey include a Lithuanian bodybuilder who believes 'cake is a sin' and the Dalai Lama's personal photographer
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon have just launched their new streaming service in the UK
music
News
Donald Trump
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - North West - Registered Charity

£31800 - £35400 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This registered charity's missi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an est...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Representative - OTE £55,000

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Why not be in charge of your ow...

Recruitment Genius: Business Operations Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation based in Peac...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food