It’s hard to turn on our phones or computers lately without seeing updates on 33-year-old Lucy Letby, dubbed the “Killer Nurse” of Great Britain. Letby was recently on trial for the murder of seven infants and the attempted murder of six others under her care in the Countess of Chester hospital.
It’s a shocking story, almost too horrible to be believed, but unfortunately, it is all too true. Now as the trial begins to wind down and the world knows the “how” the question they really want answered is why? Why would a nurse harm the very people she was meant to care for, the most innocent of our society? While there may never be a true answer, here are the various motives we do know about, explained.
Lucy Letby’s trial
Lucy Letby is a name now synonymous with “death.” Letby was a nurse employed by Countess of Chester Hospital where she worked in the neonatal ward, with the most innocent and vulnerable of patients. Between 2015 and 2016 she murdered seven infants and attempted to murder six others. In her recent trial, it was revealed that she injected some of the children with needles filled with air or insulin, and intentionally overfed or assaulted others, resulting in their death. It was a chilling crime spree with horrible results.
The mother of one of the deceased children, a set of twins, reportedly gave heartbreaking testimony at the trial, saying she “completely trusted” Letby and her advice, but that she “knew something was wrong.”
Lucy Letby convicted
Letby left a trail of grief, death, and horror in her wake. Thankfully she was eventually caught, and recently convicted of the crimes in a trial conducted by Manchester Crown Courts. Her sentencing will be forthcoming.
It turns out, however, that the hospital had been made aware of some of the complaints against Letby, and she was transferred out of the neonatal unit in 2016. Yet, all of the allegations were settled “in her favor” according to CNN. In fact, not only was Letby scheduled to start back to work in the neonatal unit in 2017, but the doctors who raised the complaints against her, were even asked to write her letters of apology. Thankfully, the police were contacted and an investigation was launched.
It is yet to be seen what charges if any will be leveled against the hospital. One of the doctors who “whistleblew” on Letby, Dr. Stephen Breary, reported to The Guardian that if more proactive steps by the hospital had been taken, some of the infant’s lives would have been saved. The Countess of Chester’s executive medical director, Dr Nigel Scawn, claimed “Since Lucy Letby worked at our hospital, we have made significant changes to our services.”
Lucy Letby motive
While it is impossible to imagine any justification for Letby’s actions, many do wonder what would drive her to do something so terrible. The answer was revealed in letters found in her home during a police search. “I don’t deserve to live. I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them,” she wrote. She went on in another letter to say “I am a horrible evil person.”
It was reported to the Daily Mail that Letby seemed to “enjoy the drama” the medical emergencies caused, and that she would become “animated” and “excited” around it. She seemed to revel in the attention it brought her.
There is also the well-known diagnosis of Munchausen by Proxy, recently made famous by the Netflix documentary Take Care of Maya and the case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, played by Joey King in Hulu’s The Act. The diagnosis differs in that in a “By Proxy” diagnosis, a parent or direct caregiver of the child is usually responsible for the illness or medical crises while “Munchausen” is more often seen in professional settings with medical caregivers such as a doctor or nurse. While Letby has not been officially diagnosed with this condition, it would certainly fit the description given by her coworkers of her behavior. Letby would even go so far as to create “memory boxes” for the parents of the children she herself killed. Some of the children who did manage to survive her vicious attacks will require round-the-clock care for the rest of their lives.
No clue was found in Letby’s upbringing or past that would explain this aberrant behavior and Letby herself continues to deny the charges, despite her handwritten confessions. By all outward appearances, she seemed normal, even average. She was reported to be generally quiet, nice, and easy to miss in a crowd. She grew up the only child of middle-class parents in Hereford, England, and was college educated. There was nothing investigators could find that would signal the dark turn her life would take in the coming years.
There may never be a true answer to why Lucy Letby became one of the most notorious and heinous serial killers the world has ever known. We may never have an understanding of what drove her to harm and kill some of the most vulnerable patients under her care. It is possible that she herself may not even know what urged her dark desires into action, and if she does, she isn’t saying.