Lucy Letby given whole-life sentence as victims' families share devastating impact

More than a dozen relatives of infants who died at the nurse's hands sat in the public gallery during her sentencing

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The families of babies who died at the hands of Lucy Letby have told the court about the devastating impact of her crimes as the former nurse was handed a whole-life sentence on each of the seven cases of murder on Monday.

Letby, 33, murdered five baby boys and two baby girls at the neonatal unit of Countess of Chester hospital in northern England where she was working in 2015 and 2016, injecting the infants with insulin or air or force-feeding them milk.

Some of those she attacked were twins – in one case she murdered both siblings, in another she killed two of three triplets, and in two instances she murdered one twin but failed in her attempts to kill the other.

In total, she murdered seven babies and tried to kill six more.

Her sentence – the most severe punishment available under the British criminal justice system – means there is no prospect of release.

More than a dozen relatives of Letby's victims sat in the public gallery for the hearing on Monday as eight jurors saw Mr Justice Goss hand down her sentence at Manchester Crown Court.

Sentencing Letby, the judge said her crimes were “completely contrary” to normal human instincts and there was “premeditation, calculation and cunning” in her actions.

He said: “This was a cruel, calculated and cynical campaign of child murder involving the smallest and most vulnerable of children.

“There was a deep malevolence bordering on sadism in your actions … You have no remorse. There are no mitigating factors.”

He added: “You acted in a way that was completely contrary to the normal human instincts of nurturing and caring for babies and in gross breach of the trust that all citizens place in those who work in the medical and caring professions.

“The babies you harmed were born prematurely and some were at risk of not surviving, but in each case you deliberately harmed them, intending to kill them.”

He said Letby “relished” being in the intensive care unit, where she took an interest in “uncommon” complications and targeted twins and triplets.

The judge said the defendant prided herself on her professionalism, which enabled her to start harming children without suspicion.

He went on, saying Letby took opportunities to harm babies while staff were on breaks.

He said: “You knew the last thing anyone working in the unit would – or did – think was that someone caring for the babies was deliberately harming them.”

He added handover sheets relating to all but the first four babies were found when police searched Letby's home, which he was satisfied she kept as “morbid records”.

“The impact of your crimes has been immense,” he continued.

“Loving parents have been robbed of their cherished children.”

He said “lifelong harm” had been caused after Letby targeted babies whose lives were cut short “almost as soon as they began”.

The judge said it was not part of his role to “reach conclusions about the underlying reasons” for Letby's actions.

“Nor could I,” said the judge, “for they are known only to you.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters on Monday it was “cowardly that people who commit such horrendous crimes do not face their victims”.

“We are looking, and have been, at changing the law to make sure that happens, and that's something that we'll bring forward in due course,” Mr Sunak said.

In a statement read to the court, the mother of Child A, who was murdered by Letby, and Child B, whom she attempted to kill, said: “You thought it was your right to play God with our children's lives.”

She said after the death of Child A they feared for their second child and made sure a member of the family was always with her, but “made a mistake” and started to believe what had happened to the first child was a “tragic event that couldn't be stopped”.

She added: “Little did we know, you were waiting for us to leave so you could attack the one thing that gave us a reason to carry on in life.”

In the statement, made on behalf of her and her partner, the mother said: “Maybe you thought by doing this you would be remembered forever, but I want you to know my family will never think of you again.

“From this day you are nothing.”

The mother of Child C choked back tears as she told Letby in her absence: “At least now there is no debate that, in your own words, you killed them on purpose. You are evil. You did this.”

The woman added: “I blame myself entirely for his death. I still live with the guilt that I couldn't protect him during pregnancy or in his short life.”

Nicholas Johnson KC, prosecuting, told the court Letby's offences represented a “very, very clear case” for a whole-life order to be imposed.

He said the murders qualified on a number of grounds, including that they were premeditated and they involved an elements of “sadistic conduct”.

Mr Johnson said there was also more than one victim and that those victims were children.

The prosecutor opened his remarks by confirming that the defendant “has refused to come into court”.

She has joined the list of the UK's most twisted child killers, including the Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley and the so-called “Angel of Death”, paediatric nurse Beverley Allitt.

Last week, the 33-year-old refused to return to the dock as the jury continued to return verdicts, and the court was told she did not want to take any part in her sentencing hearing and would not follow the hearing via video-link from prison.

Steven Brine, a Conservative MP who chairs the health select committee in Parliament, has called for a judge-led statutory inquiry to examine the crimes of Letby.

The non-statutory independent inquiry, announced by Rishi Sunak’s government, will lack the power to compel witnesses and could continue for years and “disappear down a rabbit hole,” he said.

If a statutory inquiry takes place, people can be compelled to give evidence.

Asked if the government had ruled out holding a such a probe into the Letby case, the Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters: “No.”

“As you heard the Prime Minister say this morning we are focused on the outcome,” he said. The spokesman said the most important thing is to ensure the families “get the answers they need”, that lessons are learned from the case and that the process is transparent and completed as quickly as possible.

“We will have an inquiry on the right footing to achieve that,” he added.

Downing Street said the families impacted by Letby’s crimes should be given the chance to be “involved in shaping the scope of the inquiry should they wish to do so”.

Asked about Letby’s failure to attend court for her sentencing, Downing Street said the government is “looking to change the law to make sure that these sort of cowardly individuals have to face up to the crimes they've committed."

Whole-life orders

Whole-life orders are the most severe punishment available in the country's criminal justice system and are reserved for those who commit the most heinous crimes.

A total of 70 criminals are serving whole-life orders. They will never be considered for release, unless there are exceptional compassionate grounds to warrant it.

Only three women have previously been handed the sentence: Moors murderer Myra Hindley – who died in 2002 – and serial killers Rose West and Joanna Dennehy.

Updated: August 21, 2023, 1:49 PM