Lucy Letby trial: mother describes stopping life support for baby daughter

<span>Baby K was born ‘extremely premature’ at the Countess of Chester hospital (above), where Letby allegedly tried to kill her in the neonatal unit.</span><span>Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images</span>
Baby K was born ‘extremely premature’ at the Countess of Chester hospital (above), where Letby allegedly tried to kill her in the neonatal unit.Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The mother of a newborn baby allegedly attacked by the nurse Lucy Letby said it was the “hardest decision of my life” to switch off her daughter’s life support, a court has heard.

Letby, 34, is accused of attempting to murder the infant by displacing her breathing tube when she was being treated at the Countess of Chester hospital’s neonatal unit.

The child, known as Baby K, was born “extremely premature” at 2.12am on 17 February 2016 and weighed just 1lb 8oz (692g).

Baby K was moved to the unit’s intensive care room, nursery one, to get her stable enough to be transferred to a specialist hospital, jurors at Manchester crown court were told.

Within two hours of Baby K’s birth, Letby was said to have been “caught virtually red-handed” by a senior consultant paediatrician when he saw her standing over the cot “doing nothing” as Baby K’s blood oxygen levels dipped and alarms were not sounding as they should have done.

The prosecution says the defendant went on to interfere with Baby K’s breathing tube twice more on the same night shift in an attempt to give the impression to her colleagues that the infant was habitually dislodging her own tube.

In a witness statement read to the court on Thursday, Baby K’s mother described how she and her husband were taken to see their daughter on the neonatal unit at about 4.30am, two hours after she was born.

She said a female nurse told them that the newborn was “doing well” and offered to take photographs of them all together.

The photographs were timed at 4.31am, the jury was told, about an hour after Letby allegedly tried to kill the child.

Baby K was transported to Arrowe Park hospital, Wirral, later the same day. She died three days later although the prosecution does not allege Letby caused her death.

In her statement, Baby K’s mother said she was lying awake in the family accommodation area at Arrowe Park in the early hours of 20 February when she had the “strangest feeling which I cannot begin to describe”.

Her husband was also awake, she said, and they both went to see Baby K. She said: “As we walked into the room I could see the monitors and sats [oxygen saturation] readings were low. I knew straight away things weren’t great.

“The doctor confirmed the worst. I asked if it was just a waiting game now or if she was going to get better. We had a long conversation and she said what happens next was entirely our decision.

“I remember saying to the doctor that she had been poked and prodded from the moment she was born. Her tiny little delicate body had swollen up so much we didn’t want her to be suffering any more.

“We didn’t want to be informed that we’d lost our little girl by alarms on the machines going off. We didn’t want to prolong things any more.

“We made the decision together to switch off the machines and let her go. It was by far the hardest decision of my life.

“One of the staff showed us to a family room where it was peaceful and quiet. Our daughter was wrapped in a blanket and was wearing a little hat. Our daughter was in my husband’s arms when she took her last breath and silently passed away.”

Baby K’s mother wiped away tears as she sat in court with her husband, while Letby followed proceedings from the dock flanked by three security guards.

The jury of six men and six women has been told that Letby was convicted at a trial last year of the murders of seven babies and the attempted murders of six other infants at the Countess of Chester between June 2015 and June 2016.

Letby, of Hereford, denies one count of attempted murder. Her barrister, Benjamin Myers KC, has told jurors that his client denied tampering with Baby K’s breathing tube, and said the case ultimately relied on the evidence of Dr Ravi Jayaram, one of Letby’s colleagues, and whether his account was “truthful or accurate”.

Myers described Letby’s murder convictions as “potentially a powerful and emotive” aspect of the case and urged jurors not to let their “fair vision [be] obscured by raw emotion or bias”.

The trial continues.