Text messages sent by Lucy Letby in the hours after she murdered babies on a neonatal unit were a key part of the evidence against her.
They show how she messaged colleagues after she had killed babies, often informing them of the deaths. In turn, she received sympathy and concern.
The texts show how she offered to work extra shifts on the neonatal intensive therapy unit (ITU). And, as her murders mounted, they also reveal how Letby reacted as the net of suspicion closed in on her. Here are some of the messages she sent.
To protect the identities of the babies, and their parents, each baby has been named by a letter.
Monday 8 June 2015 – Baby A dies overnight
The day after murdering Baby A, Letby messages colleagues saying she doesn’t want to go back into the nursery or see the parents – who also had another twin on the unit, Baby B.
She attacks Baby B some time before 11 June.
Letby: It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
Letby: Just a big shock for us all. Hard coming in tonight & seeing the parents x x
Baby serial killer Lucy Letby
She messages one of the nurses to say she has asked to be assigned to work with another baby:
11 June 2015: Three days after murdering Baby A, she messages a manager of the neonatal unit, offering to work more shifts, saying she needs to throw herself back in:
13 June 2015: Five days after Baby A’s murder, and the day before she kills Baby C, Letby has an irritable exchange with a colleague over her manager’s refusal to let her go back to work in intensive care.
She says when she worked at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, she found she needed to go straight back and care for another baby “otherwise the image of the one you lost never goes”.
The colleague disagrees, telling her to take a break:
Colleague: I agree with her don’t think it will help. You need a break from full on ITU… It sounds very odd and I would be complete opposite.
Letby: Forget i said anything, I’ll be fine, It’s part of the job just don’t feel like there is much team spirit tonight X
The conversation continues into the evening, until 23:09 when Letby signs off saying “Sleep well xx”.
Six minutes later, Baby C falls critically ill.
Letby had been assigned to a child elsewhere in the unit, but that night she enters the nursery where Baby C is and feeds air into his stomach through a nasogastric tube, causing his collapse.
Sunday 14 June 2015 – Baby C dies
Letby has a text conversation with the same colleague she had been speaking to the previous night:
Sunday 21 June 2015 – Baby D dies
The morning after murdering Baby D, Letby sends a message to a colleague:
Colleague: What!!!! But she was improving. What happened.
Colleague: Wanna chat? I can’t believe you were on again. You having such a tough time
The conversation continues later:
Letby tells another colleague “what I’ve seen has really hit me” but she brushes off the suggestion that she should see a counsellor.
Letby: I can’t talk about it now, I can’t stop crying. I just need to get it out of my system.
30 June 2015: One of the other nurses messages Letby, saying it is odd that four babies have become dangerously unwell within a short period of time.
Nurse: There’s something odd about that night and the other 3 that went so suddenly.
Letby: Well Baby C was tiny, obviously compromised in utero. Baby D septic. It’s Baby A I can’t get my head around
Tuesday 4 August 2015 – Baby E dies in early hours
That morning, one of the nurses asks how Letby is and if she had been working with Baby E – as well as his twin brother, Baby F.
Letby: News travels fast. Who told you?
Letby: Yeah I had them both. Was horrible.
Nurse: I just really feel for his parents but for you too. You’ve had some really tough times recently
That night, before going back on shift, Letby exchanges texts with a colleague who commiserates, saying “you seem to be having some very bad luck”.
Letby: Not a lot i can do really. He had massive haemorrhage could have happened to any baby x
Wednesday 5 August 2015 – Baby F falls critically ill
Four days after attempting to kill Baby F, Letby messages a colleague:
Letby: I said goodbye to Baby F’s parents as Baby F might go tomorrow. They both cried & hugged me saying they will never be able to thank me for the love & care I gave to Baby F & for the precious memories I’ve given them. It’s heartbreaking
Nurse: It is heartbreaking but you’ve done your job to the highest standard with compassion and professionalism.[…]
Letby: I just feel sad that they are thanking me when they have lost him & for something that any of us would have done. But it’s really nice to know that I got it right for them. That’s all I want.
Saturday 26 September 2015 – five days after attempting to kill Baby G
Letby receives a supportive text from a manager in the unit and her reply suggests she has been the subject of criticism or suspicion:
The next day she messages one of the other nurses:
Letby: It’s all just so rubbish lately isn’t it. And always seems to happen at night when less people
Letby: This is what we do, as sad and as hard as it can be
Tuesday 13 October 2015 – Baby I falls critically ill
The next morning, Letby texts a colleague who is taking over, saying Baby I “deteriorated a lot this morning” and had to be resuscitated.
In the afternoon, she messages the nurse who is acting as shift leader to ask if Baby I will be transferred.
Letby: I’d like to keep her please
The shift leader agrees, but a little over an hour later she messages to say she had to reallocate. Letby asks if something happened.
Shift leader: No. Was just asked to reallocate so no one has her for more than 1 night at a time.
Baby I died the following week, when Letby was again on an overnight shift. She has been found guilty of her murder.
Over the next few months more babies fall ill. In text messages, she complains about understaffing, and volunteers for extra shifts – including the shift where she attempts to murder twins, Baby L and Baby M.
In early June 2016, Letby connects on Facebook Messenger with a doctor at the hospital. Their messages show a close relationship.
Later that month, she murders Baby O and Baby P.
Friday 24 June 2016 – Baby P dies
Letby murders Baby O on Thursday 23 June. She kills his brother, Baby P, the following day.
A day later, she asks the doctor she had been messaging for reassurance after one of the consultant paediatricians, Dr John Gibbs, had been asking questions following another baby’s collapse and resuscitation.
Letby: Do I need to be worried about what Dr Gibbs was asking?
Doctor: He was asking to make sure that normal procedures were being carried out.
The conversation continues:
The doctor offers further reassurance:
Doctor: You are one of a few nurses across the region (I’ve worked pretty much everywhere) that I would trust with my own children.
6 July 2016: The doctor messages Letby giving her details of a meeting which reviewed the deaths of Baby O and Baby P, saying “You need to keep this to yourself”.
Doctor: There is absolutely nothing for you to worry about. Please don’t.
Doctor: There are going to be some recommendations based on staffing / kit but there was no criticism of either resus.
He also shares an email from neonatal lead consultant Dr Steve Brearey, which mentions that the deaths of Baby O and Baby P will go to an inquest.
The next day he adds: “I know you won’t say anything – this email has to stay between us, is that ok?”
“Of course,” Letby replies. “100%”.
15 July 2016: All staff are emailed to say they will have to undergo a period of clinical supervision in preparation for an external review.
Staff are told that Letby has agreed to go first. The next day, she texts a colleague to say she has done a timeline of the year to analyse her cases. She says some were seriously ill when she took over and “some went off within hours/on handover”.
Letby was first arrested two years later, in July 2018. It took another five years for her to be found guilty of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder another six.
At the end of her 10-month trial, the jury found her not guilty of two further charges of attempted murder and was unable to return verdicts on six further charges, also of attempted murder.
She is the most prolific child murderer in the UK in modern times.
Panorama – Lucy Letby: The Nurse Who Killed – will be on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 20:00 BST (UK only) on Friday 18 August
Names of children and some staff members have been redacted. Some messages have been edited for clarity
Additional reporting by Joseph Lee and Vibeke Venema