Lucy Letby is the UK's latest convicted serial killer with a particularly gruesome modus operandi. She kills infants. Thirteen unusual or unexplained incidents have occurred between June 2015 and June 2016 in a place that averages 2 to 3 deaths per year. Five infants had died and another six had bizarre complications. During each of these mysterious deaths, Letby was supervising on staff. She was always on duty when it happened, stalking the corners of the Countess of Chester Hospital. In a sick attempt at keeping trophies, she stole over 250 confidential documents relating to the care of the children she attacked. She falsified records to prevent suspicions against her as a grand coverup. This is the story of the most prolific UK child murderer in modern history.
A break in the case came when two victims were found to be poisoned with synthetic insulin as a result of injection sites on the bodies. This was the first confirmation that a crime had actually been committed, not a freak death as had been previously thought. The investigation that followed showed that on 25 separate suspicious incidents, Lucy was on staff for every single one. As soon as she was removed in June 2016, the incidents ceased. The extent of her crimes runs deep and like most serial killers, there will never be a full documentation of all victims. Two babies died mysteriously in the Liverpool Women's Hospital when she previously worked there. They'll only ever stay a mystery.
There are multiple questions that run through the mind of every sane person who reads about serial killers. How did nobody know? What is wrong with her? And finally, what's going to happen to her?
Let's start with the first one. How did nobody know? This can apply to both people in her workplace and personal life. In June 2016, Stephen Breary, the lead doctor at the neonatal unit first became concerned. The neonatal ward is for the care of premature and vulnerable babies yet the number of deaths was far above average. The stench of foul play stuck to him but he couldn't locate the source. The unfortunate fact about serial killers is that investigators often have to wait for another body to show up before they can confirm their hunch. It didn't take long. On June 23, 2016 a child in a set of triplets suddenly died. Another one quickly followed. The distraught couple, down to one child, were devastated from the loss. Those infants were in the care of Lucy Letby.
What did people think of Lucy Letby? She was a widely well liked nurse with a reputation for hard work. This impression of likeability is not uncommon in psychopaths who kill. Ted Bundy was widely regarded as a handsome womanizer who picked up many victims on the street or at bars. The BTK Killer, Dennis Rader, was a cub scout leader, president of his church council and his daughter claims her childhood was that of a "normal American family." Lucy Letby hid in plain sight. A chameleon who people trusted to take care of infants and children. A human being who could look a parent in the eye and feign innocence after freshly killing their daughter the night before. Lucy Letby is a grim reminder that you cannot always judge a book by its first few pages. Serial killers often (although not always) kill due to the sexual thrill of having complete power over another. In the case of female serial killers, nearly 40% are nurses, nurses aides, or healthcare workers. What better profession for people who are attracted to death? The term Angel of Death originates from this unsettling and recurring phenomenon. An angel of death is a serial killer who is employed as a medical practitioner or caregiver and uses that position to select victims.
So how did nobody know? Because they don't expect the likeable young female nurse to harbor a dark underbelly of sadism. Those trapped in her charm will experience cognitive dissonance at the thought. Letby's parents gave her a supportive childhood and have attended her trial every day. Many would be quick to condemn due to the nature of her crimes, but her parents are likely victims of her charming exterior and the bias of defending their daughter. Even after Dr. Breary noticed the correlation between Letby's shifts and the mysterious deaths, he was dismissed by executives who simply couldn't believe it. When the second triplet died, Dr. Breary called a hospital executive and demanded Ms. Letby be removed from the ward. The executive claimed the evidence was unclear and insisted she was safe to work with. Letby made great impressions.
What is wrong with her? This is a puzzling conundrum that parents everywhere wish to solve. Letby has claimed her upbringing was normal and her parents were supportive. According to a friend of hers in secondary school, Letby claimed to be "very grateful for being alive to the nurses who would have helped save her life" when referencing some complications during her birth. This was her stated motivation for becoming a nurse. How could a child without trauma become a serial killer? Maybe its just nature. Psychopathy is widely considered by researchers to be a neurological starting point rather than a trauma response. Trauma, of course, can shape the severity of psychopathic traits, but the disorder itself comes from the womb. Letby had no criminal record beforehand, however, she displays no signs of psychosis or magical thinking. Her actions are calculated enough to be considered that of a sound mind. She even sued the hospital after her fellow pediatricians managed to get her removed, claiming she was victimized. Dr. Breary and Dr. Ravi Jayaram were forced to apologize to a serial killer of children due to their accurate complaints. This skillful manipulation and grizzly appetite for murder is a telltale sign of psychopathy.
What's going to happen to her? Letby has been convicted for the murder of five infants and the attempted murder of six more. Despite the overwhelming evidence, the world has not been fully convinced. Lucy Letby has supporters. A group called Science on Trial is claims that Letby didn't get a fair trial and described the case as: “ [The] greatest miscarriage of justice that the UK has ever witnessed”. The founder of the group Mrs. Sarrita Adams believes that babies were not actually injected with insulin, despite the autopsy reports. However, Letby's legal team did not take this approach. She will be doing life in prison without a chance of release.