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Lucy Letby trial: Nurse asked to ‘keep’ baby who later died

Lucy Letby
Lucy Letby denies murdering five boys and two girls, and attempting to murder another five boys and five girls, between June 2015 and June 2016. (SWNS) (SWNS)

A nurse accused of murdering a baby girl during a night shift sent a colleague a WhatsApp message saying, “I’d like to keep her please”, a jury heard.

Lucy Letby, 33, is said to have injected air into the premature-born infant’s stomach via a feeding tube at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit.

Prosecutors say she tried to kill the baby three times before succeeding on the fourth attempt in October 2015.

Letby, originally from Hereford, is on trial accused of the murder of seven babies and the attempted murder of 10 others between June 2015 and June 2016 – charges which she denies.

She allegedly poisoned victims with insulin, injected them with air, or overfed them with milk, with many attacks taking place during night shifts, when parents were less likely to visit, jurors heard.

Read more: Letby wrote sympathy card to baby’s grieving parents, murder trial told

CHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 12: A general view of the Countess of Chester Hospital, where nurse Lucy Letby used to work on November 12, 2020 in Chester, England. Lucy Letby, formerly a nurse at Countess of Chester Hospital, is charged with eight counts of murder and 10 counts of attempted murder stemming from deaths at the hospital between June 2015 and June 2016. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Letby, 33, carried out her attacks during night shifts when parents were less likely to visit Countess of Chester Hospital, prosecutors claim. (Getty Images) (Christopher Furlong via Getty Images)

In WhatsApp messages read to Manchester Crown Court, Letby asked a colleague on the afternoon of 14 October if one of the alleged victims, known only as Child I, was staying on the neonatal unit.

Messaging her colleague, who cannot be named for legal reasons, Letby said: “I’d like to keep her please.”

“Yes. Staying for now. OK re keeping,” the colleague replied, but less than an hour later, they messaged to say: “I’ve had to reallocate. Sorry.”

When Letby asked if something had happened, the colleague replied: “No. Was just asked to reallocate so no one has her for more than 1 night at a time. Or 1 shift. Not just night.”

“Yeah, that’s understandable,” the defendant responded.

Prosecutors say Letby murdered Child I in the early hours of October 23, after previously trying on 30 September and 14 and 13 October.

Jurors also heard from registrar Dr Matthew Neame, who recalled seeing “unusual” skin mottling on Child I when he examined her at 10.05pm on 13 October.

Read more: Lucy Letby: 5 key details from trial of alleged baby killer nurse that emerged on Tuesday

Police activity at a house in Chester, believed to be the home of nurse Lucy Letby, after Cheshire Police announced a female healthcare professional had been arrested in a probe into the deaths of 17 infants at the Countess of Chester Hospital. (Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police digging in the front garden of Letby after her arrest in July 2018. (PA/Getty Images) (Peter Byrne - PA Images via Getty Images)

He noted that Child I’s abdomen was “distended”, “mottled” and with “some tenderness”, and said her eyes were open and she “grimaced”.

“I don’t recall it clearly but it’s unusual to see mottling on the abdomen,” Dr Neame told the court.

“My impression was the increase in abdomen distension may have caused (Child I’s) lungs to be squashed… making it hard for her to breathe.”

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By 7am the following morning, jurors heard how the baby had a “significant” drop in blood oxygen levels and heart rate, prompting CPR within that hour.

Thirteen minutes of resuscitation from medical staff followed before she recovered.

The court has heard evidence of numerous babies having a “mottled, discoloured” appearance before collapsing, which Dr Neame said was a sign of poor circulation.

The trial continues.