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Carers who kill: Lucy Letby joins a gruesome list of medical monsters, from Harold Shipman to Beverley Allitt

As Letby is convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six others, we look at other examples of killers who exploited a position of trust

Joseph Draper
Sunday 20 August 2023 15:57 BST
Lucy Letby: Nurse found guilty of baby murders on hospital ward

Killer nurse Lucy Letby joins a grim list of medical professionals who exploited their position to harm the vulnerable patients they were supposed to care for.

Letby has been convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six others, one of them twice, at a hospital neonatal unit.

Prosecutors said Letby, 33, was a “calculated opportunist” who used the vulnerabilities of premature and sick infants to camouflage her acts.

In 2015 and 2016, there was a significant rise in the number of babies who suffered serious and unexpected collapses in the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Below, we look at the most notorious examples of Britain’s medical murderers.

“Doctor Death”

GP Harold Shipman was one Britain’s most prolific serial killers and is thought to have murdered hundreds of patients (PA Media)

Dubbed “Doctor Death” by the press, Harold Shipman was one Britain’s most prolific serial killers and is thought to have murdered hundreds of patients.

As a general practitioner in Greater Manchester, Shipman targeted elderly people after winning their trust.

His modus operandi, which consisted of injecting his victims with a fatal dose of drugs and then claiming they had died of natural causes, meant that he evaded capture throughout the 1990s. He was finally convicted of 15 counts of murder in 2000.

He began to attract suspicion after one of his patients, an 81-year-old woman, was discovered dead in her home only hours after Shipman had visited her in 1998.

After killing himself in prison in 2004, an official inquiry established that the extent of Shipman’s crimes was far greater than initially thought, estimating that he had killed 250 people.

Beverley Allitt

Beverley Allitt is currently serving 13 life sentences (PA)

In a case with disturbing echoes of Letby’s crimes, Beverley Allitt is currently serving 13 life sentences – one for each of the children she murdered or attempted to murder as a paediatric nurse in the 1990s.

Allitt attacked 13 children who had been admitted for minor injuries between February and April 1991 at Grantham and Kesteven Hospital, Lincolnshire, injecting some of them with dangerous amounts of insulin.

She succeeded in killing four of them, the youngest of whom, Liam Taylor, was just seven weeks old.

After the death of her fourth victim, 15-month-old Claire Peck, staff became suspicious of the number of cardiac arrests on the children’s ward and police began to investigate.

It was established that Allitt had been the only nurse on duty during the medical episodes, and she was found guilty in 1993 of four counts of murder, three of attempted murder, and a further six of grievous bodily harm.

Allitt, now 54, is currently imprisoned at Rampton Secure Hospital in Nottinghamshire.

Scotland’s “Angel of Death”

Colin Norris was convicted of murder in 2008 (West Yorkshire Police/PA Wire)

Colin Norris, from Glasgow, was another nurse convicted of killing patients.

Called the “Angel of Death”, Norris was found guilty in 2008 of murdering four women, and attempting to murder another, by injecting them with insulin.

The four women who died – Ethel Hall, Bridget Bourke, Doris Ludlam and Irene Crookes – as well as the fifth woman, Vera Wilby – were all elderly inpatients on orthopaedic ward in Leeds where Norris worked as a nurse in 2002.

He was accused of injecting his victims with lethal amounts of insulin.

Now aged 47, Norris is serving a 30-year prison sentence at HMP Frankland.

He successfully had all five of his convictions referred to the Court of Appeal in 2021 after the Criminal Cases Review Commission concluded there was a “real possibility” they may be unsafe in light of new expert evidence.

Victorino Chua

Victorino Chua was found guilty of murdering and poisoning patients in Stockport (PA)

Father-of-two Victorino Chua was found guilty of murdering and poisoning patients at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, where he worked as a nurse. He was jailed for a minimum of 35 years in 2015.

Chua, now 57, killed Tracey Arden, 44, and Derek Weaver, 83, and attempted to kill a third victim, Arnold Lancaster, 71, by injecting insulin into saline bags and ampoules.

Speaking after he was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court, Weaver’s sister, Lynda Bleasdale, described Chua as an “evil and diabolical” man who “enjoyed watching people suffer”.

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