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A "malevolent" neonatal nurse murdered a premature baby who weighed less than 2lbs at birth on a night when "she had no business being there", a jury has been told.
Lucy Letby, 32, a former neonatal nurse at Countess of Chester Hospital in Chester, is on trial accused of murdering seven babies and trying to kill 10 others in an alleged year-long killing spree at the hospital.
She denies all charges.
Nick Johnson KC, prosecuting, told Manchester Crown Court the alleged victim was born seven weeks premature and was in the hospital's intensive care unit.
Letby was not supposed to be working there that night, he said, she was on duty in a lower dependency ward in the neo-natal unit.
But when the baby's alarm monitor went off, it is alleged a nurse walked in and found Letby next to the baby boy's incubator despite having "no business being there".
Mr Johnson said a crash call was put out and medics tried to revive him – and Letby is accused of saying "he's going, he's going".
The baby died seven minutes later aged four days, the jury heard, and experts ruled only the only "feasible" explanation was that someone had "deliberately put air" into his gastro nasal feeding tube – leaving him "unable to breathe" and suffering a cardiac arrest.
It is alleged just hours later Letby searched the baby's parents on Facebook. It was later discovered Letby had texted a pal saying she had not been able to work in intensive care that night.
She said she would have found it "cathartic" to "see a living baby in the space that was occupied by a dead baby" – who she also alleged to have murdered a week earlier.
Letby is accused of causing the "catastrophic collapses" of premature or sick new-borns, with Manchester Crown Court hearing she either poisoned the babies with insulin or injected them with milk or air.
The nurse killed a day-old boy with insulin before trying to murder another the next day with a shot of air, the jury was told on Monday.
It is also alleged a two-day-old baby, who was in a "good condition" at birth and had been "stable", died less than 90 minutes after Letby took over his care. A paediatrician said the tot had received "a deliberate injection of air".
The following night a girl also collapsed while in Letby’s care and was only saved by emergency treatment after medics put out a "crash call".
She allegedly twice tried to kill the same baby on the same day.
And she made three attempts to kill one tot within a fortnight, the court heard, allegedly carrying out two of the attacks on him within the same 24-hour period.
Letby was a "constant malevolent presence" at the Countess of Chester Hospital, Mr Johnson said, where she worked in the neo-natal intensive care or high dependency units – often during night shifts.
Mr Johnson told the jury consultants raised the alarm after spotting a significant rise in the number of babies dying and "serious collapses".
"They searched for a cause,’’ he said. "Their collapses and recoveries defied the normal experience of the treating doctors. Babies who had not been unstable at all suddenly deteriorated.
"Having searched for a cause, which they were unable to find, the consultants noticed that the inexplicable collapses and deaths did have one common denominator.
"The presence of one of the neonatal nurses and that nurse was Lucy Letby.’’
Police were called in and conducted a "painstaking review" which suggested a "poisoner" was at large.
"Somebody poisoned these babies deliberately with insulin. This was no accident,’’ said the prosecution.
Letby, from Hereford, denies murdering five boys and two girls.
She has also pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of another five boys and five girls between June 2015 and June 2016.
Family members of some of the alleged victims sat in the public gallery along with Letby’s parents, John, 76, and Susan, 62.
A court order bans the babies involved from being named.
The trial continues.
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