A paediatric doctor became suspicious about nurse Lucy Letby after he found her standing over a dying baby “making no effort to help”, the jury in her trial has been told.
Lucy Letby, 32 years old, has denied murdering seven babies while working at the neonatal section of the Countess of Chester Hospital between June 2015 to June 2016. Legal reasons make it impossible to name any of the victims.
Manchester Crown Court jurors were told by Nick Johnson KC, the prosecution that a 25-week-old baby died in February 2016. He was taken to Letby’s care for only a few hours.
Mr Johnson said that, even before the baby’s death, Dr Ravi Jayaram, a consultant paediatrician at the Countess of Chester, felt uncomfortable leaving her alone in the care of Letby after linking the nurse to previous unexplained deaths.
The court heard that Child K was moved from the Countess of Chester on the Wirral due to her prematurity.
Dr Jayaram was present at Child Ks’s birth and was compiling notes when he realised that Child K’s designated nurse had left the room and only Letby was present.
“Dr Jayaram was feeling uncomfortable with this because he started to notice a coincidence between unexplained deaths and serious collapses and the presence of Lucy Letby,” said Mr Johnson.
“Dr Jayaram decided to check on how Lucy Letby was and how Child K was. As he walked into room 1, he saw Lucy Letby standing over Child K’s incubator.
“She didn’t have her hands inside the incubator, but Dr Jayaram could see from the monitor on the wall that Child K’s oxygen levels were falling dangerously, to somewhere in the 80s.
“But despite the fact that her oxygen levels were falling, no alarm was sounding and Lucy Letby hadn’t called for help and was making no effort to help Child K.”
When Dr Jayaram asked Letby if something had happened, she said Child K had “just started deteriorating now”, the court heard.
However, the doctor discovered that the baby’s breathing tube was missing when he examined her.
Mr Johnson said it is “possible” for a baby to dislodge their breathing tube themselves but he argued that this could not have happened in the case of Child K because she was so premature and sedated.
Letby later logged on to Child K’s nursing records despite the fact that she was not the designated nurse and made a note that the baby’s breathing tube had been taped to her bonnet.
Child K, who was born at 9am in the Countess of Chester Hospital, died three days later.
Prosecution experts who examined what happened to the baby agreed that Letby’s failure to summon help was “unusual”, Mr Johnson said.
Dr Dewi Evans, a consultant paediatrician advising on child safeguarding issues, said he believed the dislodgement of the breathing tube was a “deliberate act”, the court heard.
More than two years after Child K’s death, Letby searched for her parents on Facebook, the court heard.
Her parents were a couple that had “passed through the neonatal unit so quickly that even if she had met them she cannot have forged a relationship with them,” said Mr Johnson.
Jurors were told by Letby that she doesn’t recall doing the Facebook searches when she was asked by police about them.
The Manchester Crown Court trial continues, and is expected to last for six more months.