A nurse accused of murdering seven babies at a neonatal unit during a year-long spree wrote “I am evil I did this” on a Post-it note found by police at her home, a court has heard.
Lucy Letby, who is alleged to have attempted to kill ten other babies, also penned, “I don’t deserve to live. I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them”, jurors were told.
In addition, the 32-year-old – who denies the charges against her – protested her innocence in writing, the court heard.
Letby is accused of murdering five boys and two girls and attempting to murder another five boys and five girls at the Countess of Chester Hospital between June 2015 and June 2016. She is alleged to have tried to kill some of the babies more than once.
Concluding the prosecution opening, Nick Johnson KC told Manchester Crown Court that after Letby fell under suspicion, she was put on clerical duties, where she could not pose a danger to children, until she was arrested in July 2018.
Mr Johnson said “interesting items” were found after Letby’s house in Chester was searched.
The court heard that paperwork relating to many of the children who died or suffered collapses was found, along with Post-it notes with closely written words which included the names of some of her colleagues.
“But I want to show you one note in particular,” Mr Johnson told jurors. Highlighting a yellow Post-it note shown on TV screens to the jury, he focused on some of the words written in ink by Letby.
Mr Johnson said: “She wrote, ‘I don’t deserve to live. I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them’, ‘I am a horrible evil person’ and in capital letters ‘I am evil, I did this.’
“Well, ladies and gentlemen, that in a nutshell is your task in this case. Whether or not she did these dreadful things is the decision you will have to make when you have heard all the evidence.”
Along with the ‘I am evil’ note, there were other written messages, the court heard.
Mr Johnson said these included phrases such as “Why/how has this happened – what process has led to this current situation. What allegations have been made and by who?” and “Do they have written evidence to support their comments?”
The prosecutor said that in her writings Letby expressed frustration because she was not being allowed back on the neonatal unit, writing: “I haven’t done anything wrong and they have no evidence so why have I had to hide away?”
Mr Johnson added: “Her notes also expressed concern for the long-term effects of what she feared was being alleged against her and there are many protestations of innocence.”
Letby’s defence barrister Ben Myers KC, told jurors: “There is a real danger that people will simply accept the prosecution theory of guilt and that’s all we have so far … a theory of guilt based firmly on coincidence – if anything can be based firmly on coincidence.
“The defence say that Lucy Letby was a dedicated nurse,” he said. “She trained hard to be a neonatal nurse and what she wanted was to care for babies she looked after. In no way did she want to harm them. The defence say she is not guilty of causing intentional harm to any baby or to killing any baby.”
He also cited the ‘I am evil’ Post-it note. Mr Myers said: “This is the anguished outpouring of a young woman in fear and despair when she realises the enormity of what’s being said about her, in the moment to herself.”
At the time it was written, Mr Myers said, she was dealing with employment issues, including a grievance procedure with the NHS trust.
The Post-it note, again enlarged and shown on screens to the jury, included the words: “Not good enough. I’m an awful person. I will never have children or marry. Despair” and, “I haven’t done anything wrong”.
Mr Myers also told jurors that the “prosecution case is driven by the assumption that someone was doing deliberate harm, combined with the coincidence, on certain occasions, of Miss Letby’s presence”. But, he said, there was no evidence of her doing harm to any children.
Earlier on Thursday, the court heard about child P. Letby is said to have killed child P, one of triplets, on 24 June 2016 – the day after she allegedly murdered his brother, child O.
Mr Johnson told the court that child P suffered an “acute deterioration” before preparations were put in place to move him to another hospital.
Just before the planned transfer, a doctor was said to be “optimistic” about his prospects but then “all of a sudden Lucy Letby said to him something like ‘he’s not leaving alive here, is he?”’, said Mr Johnson. Shortly after, child P collapsed and died, the court heard.
He said: “That remark surprised [the doctor] but Lucy Letby’s prediction came true. After all, she knew what she had done to him and therefore she knew what was likely to happen. It is certainly what she intended because it was something she had done to so many other children.”
A coroner recorded the death as “prematurity” but independent experts who were tasked with reviewing child P’s case said the most likely cause was air injected into his stomach which compromised his breathing.
After child P’s death, Letby spent time with his parents and at one point took a photograph of child P and his brother, child O, in a cot, jurors were told.
Letby denied causing child P any deliberate harm.
The court also heard how Letby is alleged to have attempted to murder child Q, a baby boy, on 25 June 2016, the day after she is accused of killing child P.
Letby is alleged to have injected child Q with excess air and a clear fluid, possibly water or saline, into his stomach via a nasogastric tube in a bid to murder him.
The boy was later transferred to another hospital, where he went on to make a “rapid recovery”.
Following the events of June 2015 to June 2016, Mr Johnson said the consultants suspected the deaths and life-threatening collapses of the 17 children were “not medically explicable and were the result of the actions of Lucy Letby”.
Mr Johnson told jurors: “No doubt they were acutely aware that making such an allegation against a nurse was as serious as it gets.
“They did not, at the time, have the benefit of the evidence that you are going to hear and the decision was made by the hospital to remove Lucy Letby from a hands-on role.
“She was moved to clerical duties where she would not come into contact with children.”
The court heard that the police were contacted and a “very lengthy and complex” investigation followed, involving instructing independent paediatricians and other specialists to review many cases that passed through the neonatal unit.
Following that review, the decision was made to arrest Letby on 3 July 2018, Mr Johnson said.
The trial, scheduled to last six months, continues.
Press Association contributed to this report
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