The serial killer nurse Lucy Letby will never be released from prison after a judge sentenced her to a rare whole-life term for the “sadistic” murder of seven babies. Letby, 33, is one of only three women alive to have been given such a jail term in the UK. She was sentenced at Manchester crown court on Monday.
Sentencing Letby, Mr Justice Goss described her crimes as a “cruel, calculated and cynical campaign of child murder involving the smallest and most vulnerable of children”.
The former neonatal nurse, the worst child serial killer in modern British history, was also convicted of attempting to murder six more babies at the Countess of Chester hospital.
The trial had heard how Letby often attacked the infants just moments after their parents or nurses had left their sides. She fatally injected seven babies with air, tried to kill two others by lacing their feeding bags with insulin and attempted to murder one by thrusting a nasogastric tube down his throat.
Letby refused to be present in court for the sentencing, in which parents of her victims described in powerful detail the impact of her crimes. Goss ordered her to be provided with a copy of the sentencing remarks and of the victim impact statements in her absence.
The Former Countess of Chester NHS hospital executive Alison Kelly has been suspended from her role within the NHS body Northern Care Alliance.
The families of the babies who were murdered by Letby spoke out within their victim statement. The mother of a baby murdered on his fourth day alive, Child C, said she felt it was like watching someone else’s life as her son died. Holding back tears in court, she said: “The trauma of us all will live with us all until we die. Learning that his killer was watching us [as we grieved] is like something out of a horror story.”
Letby refused to be present in court for the sentencing, in which parents of her victims described in powerful detail the impact of her crimes.
The Labour leader Keir Starmer called for the inquiry to be put on a statutory footing. Adding his voice to the growing number calling for the independent investigation the government has announced to be strengthened.
Following Letby’s sentencing, the lord chancellor and justice secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said:
“Nothing could begin to undo the damage that Lucy Letby has done. Justice has been served, but it was an insult to the families of her victims that Letby failed to appear in the dock to hear her sentence handed down. She took the coward’s approach, insulting her victims one last time by robbing their families of the chance to look her in the eye as the judge decided her fate.
“Cases like these make me even more determined to make sure the worst offenders attend court to face justice, when ordered by the judge.
“That’s why we are looking at options to change the law at the earliest opportunity to ensure that in the silence that follows the clang of the prison gate, society’s condemnation will be ringing in prisoners’ ears.”
Following the sentencing, DCI Nicola Evans has said:
The sentence reflects the true scale and gravity of her horrific crimes and ensures that a calculated and dangerous individual is behind bars for a very long time.
Nothing will bring back the babies who died or take away the pain and suffering experienced by all of the families over the years but I hope that the significant sentence will bring some comfort at this dark time.
The victim impact statements read out in court today on behalf of the parents are a chilling reminder of the pain and suffering that each family has had to endure over the years. Hearing their own experiences in their own words has been truly heartbreaking.
Starmer also calls for the inquiry to be put on a statutory footing. Adding his voice to the growing number calling for the independent investigation the government has announced to be strengthened, he has said:
I think it should be a statutory inquiry and I’ll tell you why. One: because that’s what the victims’ family want and after what they’ve been through, I think that is a really important consideration.
Secondly: what a statutory inquiry gives you is the power to order documents, to order witnesses to come forward. So we get the fullest, proper, comprehensive analysis of what went wrong here.
So I think it has to be a statutory inquiry. I don’t think that needs to hold things up. We could get on with that very quickly.
The justice secretary, Alex Chalk, says the government wants to change the law to compel offenders to attend. Writing on Twitter, he has said:
Lucy Letby is not just a murderer but a coward, whose failure to face her victims’ families, refusing to hear their impact statements and society’s condemnation, is the final insult. We are looking to change the law so offenders can be compelled to attend sentencing hearings.
Keir Starmer, the Labour party leader, says he shares the anger of the victims’ families about not seeing Letby in the dock for her sentencing hearing, as he urged the government to change the law to compel criminals to attend.
What I don’t think should be allowed to happen is for the government to say, because there are practical considerations – which of course there are – we’ll do nothing about it.
Just think of those victims’ families today not seeing the defendant in the dock facing justice as she properly should. They are angry, they’re frustrated. I share that.
I saw for myself just how important it is. So from our position, we’re thinking not about party politics. We’re thinking about the victims, making an absolutely open offer to the government: we’ll work with you, overcome the practical considerations, and let’s get this done, let’s get the law changed.
Ayse Hussein, who has campaigned on the issue since the murder of her cousin Jan Mustafa in 2018 by a man who had already killed another woman, has said:
In our case, it was a double-murder and knowing that the perpetrator was allowed to sit comfortably in his cell while the judge read out the impact statements was a stab in the back.
The perpetrator should be in the dock facing the family and listening to what he has put us through and to see the pain and tears because he has caused this by killing our loved ones. But, because of the law, he doesn’t have to see or hear anything. This is wrong and has to change.
Perpetrators have so many rights and privileges over families, we suffer and have to listen in court, they don’t.
Jebina Islam, whose sister Sabina Nessa was murdered in 2021, has said:
It’s amazing that this is actually happening. The thought of these predators choosing to come to court was truly outrageous and unfair for the victim and their families – and now we have put a stop to this.
I am over the moon that this change is happening and thank everyone for their support and love.
More anger has been expressed at Letby’s ability to avoid attending her sentencing, as well as the final days of her trial. London’s victims commissioner, Claire Waxman, has said:
It’s simply unacceptable that Lucy Letby has been able to avoid attending her sentencing today and not face up to her evil actions in front of grieving families who have been put through unimaginable pain, which has been compounded by this added trauma.
This case is another example of a loop in the criminal justice system which is enabling convicted criminals to regularly take advantage of. Perpetrators of crime must be made to face their sentencing in court and hear the impact of their crimes, or face consequences if they refuse.
For the last 18 months, I have been working with the families of Sabina Nessa, Zara Aleena and Jan Mustafa, who have had similar experiences and we have been pushing government to bring forward legislation that will prevent offenders continuing to hold power over families during sentencing.
I have had numerous meetings with many justice partners on this issue and have suggested a number of proposals to government. And, while we welcome the commitment to make the necessary changes, we need the government to follow through swiftly to ensure that victims and their loved ones can feel that justice has been delivered and start their journey towards some sense of closure.
Goss thanks those who have been involved in the case – including the jury, police, and the media.
I want to thank all of them for their understanding, patience and cooperation. This case has demonstrated that responsible, accurate reporting – a fundamental plank of democracy – can be achieved.
To the families, he offers his “serious condolences” to those whose children were murdered. He looks emotional as he says the families of all victims will remain in his thoughts.
Ending his sentencing remarks, the judge says:
Lucy Letby, on each of the seven offences of murder and the seven offences of attempted murder, I sentence you to imprisonment for life.
Because the seriousness of your offences is exceptionally high, I direct that the early release provisions do not apply. The order of the court, therefore, is a whole-life order on each and every offence. And you will spend the rest of your life in prison.
This was a cruel, calculated and cynical campaign of child murder involving the smallest and most vulnerable of children, knowing that your actions were causing significant physical suffering – and would cause untold mental suffering.
The judge says:
There was a deep malevolence bordering on sadism in your actions. During the course of this trial you have coldly denied any responsibility for your wrongdoing and sought to attribute some fault to others. You have no remorse. There are no mitigating factors.
Sentencing her to a whole-life order for each offence, he said:
You will spend the rest of your life in prison.
Mr Justice Goss tells Letby:
The cruelty and calculation of your actions were truly horrific.
He goes on to say:
By their nature and number such murders and attempted murder by a neonatal nurse entrusted to care for them is a case of very exceptional circumstances … This was a cruel, calculated and cynical campaign of child murder.
You killed seven fragile babies and attempted to kill six others. Some of your victims were only a day or a few days old. All were extremely vulnerable.
The judge has told Lucy Letby she will spend the rest of her life in prison for the murders of seven babies and attempted murders of six others.