A British nurse accused of killing seven babies in a neonatal unit and trying to murder 10 more was a "malevolent presence" at the Countess of Chester hospital, prosecutor Nick Johnson said as Lucy Letby's trial began Monday. He said that before Letby started work on the ward, the hospital in northern England was a typical busy hospital, but "over the next 18 months or so, there was a significant rise in the number of babies who were dying and in the number of serious catastrophic collapses," the BBC reports. "Babies who had not been unstable at all suddenly severely deteriorated. Sometimes babies who had been sick and then on the mend deteriorated for no apparent reason," Johnson said, per LBC.
Consultants searching for a cause of the deaths in 2015 and 2016 "found the inexplicable collapses and deaths did have one common denominator," Johnson said. "The presence of one of the neonatal nurses. That nurse was Lucy Letby." The collapses and deaths moved from the night shift to the day shift at the same time Letby changed shifts, Johnson said. He said two babies, a boy and a girl, from two sets of twins were poisoned with insulin but survived thanks to the skill of medical staff. Johnson said Letby also tried to kill the other twin in both cases by injecting air into the bloodstream and succeeding in killing one of the boys, identified in court only as Baby E. Other premature or sick infants on the ward were given too much milk, Johnson said.
Letby, who was surrounded by three security officers in the court Monday, has pleaded not guilty. She faces seven murder charges as well as attempted murder charges. "Sometimes a baby that she succeeded in killing she did not manage to kill the first time she tried, or even the second time, and in one case even the third time," Johnson said. The trial is expected to last six months. The Guardian reports that the judge, Sir James Goss, told jurors the charges were "bound to provoke an instinctive reaction of horror" but they should put their emotions aside to consider the evidence "calmly, rationally, fairly, and dispassionately." (Read more United Kingdom stories.)