Nurse killed to be centre of attention: Evidence of killer was not acted on for 18 days

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The Independent Online
EVIDENCE of the presence of a killer on Ward 4 reached Grantham hospital 18 days before they called in the police, a fatal period of inertia the Trent Regional Health Authority tried subsequently to cover up.

As they hesitated between 12 and 30 April, 1991, nurse Beverly Allitt murdered a 15-month-old girl and attacked three other babies; one was left permanently brain damaged.

A laboratory at Cardiff University telephoned Nelson Porter, consultant paediatrician, at 5.30pm on 12 April. The laboratory told him the results of the tests on the blood of Paul Crampton, aged five months, who had suffered three hypoglycaemic attacks. The results showed they could not have been brought on by natural causes: he had been injected with insulin. Mr Porter's notes acknowledge the baby had probably been injected with insulin.

By October, enough details of the police investigation, which had been going on since April into Allitt's activities, had leaked to the parents.

Ann Alexander, an expert medical negligence lawyer brought in from Manchester to represent most of the victims' parents, had enough allegations of incompetence and neglect to demand a public inquiry, as well as arrests.

At the Trent region's Sheffield headquarters, advice on the content of a press statement was prepared for Martin Gibson, the hospital manager, by the authority's legal department. At 3.48pm on 11 October, Caroline Hatton of the legal department sent a fax to Grantham.

The full text of the fax will be published this month in a book by Nick Davies, to whom it was leaked. According to Mr Davies the region advised Mr Gibson to say: 'We would again emphasise that we have been co-operating closely with the police since calling them in at the end of April. This was done as soon as it was identified that there was a possibility of a prescribed drug on the children's ward being misused.'

But the authority did not disclose that the hospital had been warned of the possibility of misuse of a prescribed drug on 12 April; the police were not called in until 30 April.

Murder on Ward 4; Chatto and Windus; forthcoming.