Nurse ‘tried to murder hours-old baby by dislodging breathing tube’

Lucy Letby accused of dislodging youngster’s breathing tube moments before consultant walked in room

Kim Pilling
Monday 27 February 2023 14:59 GMT
Letby was working a night shift at the Countess of Chester Hospital
Letby was working a night shift at the Countess of Chester Hospital (Supplied)

Nurse Lucy Letby attempted to murder a baby girl within two hours of her birth, a jury has heard.

She is said to have deliberately dislodged the youngster’s breathing tube just moments before a consultant walked into the nursery room.

Letby, 33, was working a night shift at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neo-natal unit in February 2016 when the alleged attack took place.

The infant, Child K, was born at 2.12am and brought into the unit because of her extreme prematurity, Manchester Crown Court was told.

The Countess of Chester would not usually care for babies of 25 weeks gestation but Wirral’s Arrowe Park was full so transport to the specialist hospital had to wait until a bed became available.

The Crown say Letby struck when Child K’s designated nurse left nursery room 1 to go to the labour ward.

On Monday, Nick Johnson KC, prosecuting, told jurors: “It is alleged Lucy Letby interfered with the endotracheal (ET) tube and Dr Ravi Jayaram walked in to the immediate aftermath of that.”

Dr Jayaram noted that at 3.50am there was a “sudden deterioration” in Child K’s condition as her blood oxygen levels fell to 40%.

The breathing tube was then removed and her oxygen rate “recovered pretty quickly” after she received rescue breaths through a facemask, the court was told.

A new ET was put in and an X-ray taken at 6.07am showed it was in a “satisfactory position”, the court heard.

A court artist sketch of Lucy Letby appearing in the dock at Manchester Crown Court
A court artist sketch of Lucy Letby appearing in the dock at Manchester Crown Court (PA Wire)

Eight minutes later Dr Jayaram noted Child K’s oxygen levels had dipped again and the tube had to be adjusted.

The tube had to be withdrawn again when Dr Jayaram noted at 7.25am that it had “slipped” 8cm at the lips.

Child K was eventually transferred from the Countess of Chester later that day and arrived at Arrowe Park Hospital at 1.15pm.

The youngster died at Arrowe Park three days later, the court was told.

Mr Johnson told jurors: “We are not alleging what Lucy Letby did actually caused her death.”

I remember saying to the doctor that (Child K) had been poked and prodded from the moment she was born

Child K's mother

Child K’s cause of death was certified as severe respiratory distress and extreme prematurity.

In a statement read to the court, Child K’s mother said: “I remember saying to the doctor that (Child K) had been poked and prodded from the moment she was born.

“Her tiny little delicate body had swollen up so much. We didn’t want her to be suffering any more.”

Following a discussion with medics at Arrowe Park, she and her husband made the decision to “switch the machines off and let her go”.

She said: “This was by far the hardest decision of my life.”

The court was told Letby conducted a Facebook search for the parents’ surname in April 2018 – three months before her arrest.

In his opening address last October, Ben Myers KC, defending, said the “probable cause” for the tube dislodgement at 3.50am was the child inadvertently moving it herself.

Her case was another example of “sub-optimal care” in that she should have been treated at a more specialist unit, he added.

Letby, originally from Hereford, denies the murders of seven babies and the attempted murders of 10 others between June 2015 and June 2016.

The trial continues.

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