'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
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution