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Sepsis and Scapegoating in Lucy Letby Case

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One fabulous article on scienceLucyLetby subreddit about sepsis and a snippet of trial testimony that might explain why Lucy was scapegoated

Below is a snippet of the testimony on 26 April of CoCH neonatal unit manager Eirian Lloyd Powell.

"Ms Powell said Letby made mistakes, as everyone did, but was "good at reporting mistakes", and would report mistakes that other nurse practitioners or medical staff had made, regardless of seniority."

We have five useful bits of information here:

  1. We know that Lucy was "good at reporting mistakes".

  2. We know she had no qualms about reporting senior doctors.

  3. Given that Powell specifically mentioned that Lucy would "report mistakes, regardless of seniority, I think we can infer that this may have been unusual and that other nurses feared the consequences of reporting senior doctors (after all, this would make sense).

  4. If Lucy made reports, these should be in the hospital's computer system.

  5. When Powell made this comment she was being questioned by prosecution barrister Nicholas Johnson KC. He would not have wanted the Court to hear that Lucy reported senior doctors. So, I think we can infer that Powell went out of her way to make this remark and that therefore she was a supporter of Lucy (did not believe she was a killer).

If it was indeed usual for nurses to not report senior doctors, I wonder how the likes of Drs Gibbs, Brearey and Jayaram felt when Lucy reported them as she probably did.

The below article ( was posted on the scienceLucyLetby subreddit ( yesterday. It is brilliant research. Thank you Nessie In The Loch ( for doing such fabulous work and for letting me reproduce it on this site.

I found a confirmed case of a newborn developing sepsis at the Countess of Chester neonatal unit in June 2015—the same month babies A, C and D died, and baby B had an 'unexpected collapse.' In fact, this confirmed case of sepsis likely overlapped with the events related to babies A-C.

First, some context: In 2013, The Chester Standard teamed up with the Countess of Chester Hospital for a charity campaign dubbed 'Babygrow Appeal'. The goal was to raise £3 million to build a new neonatal unit for the hospital, to replace the old, cramped one where Lucy Letby supposedly killed and harmed over a dozen infants.

If the name 'Babygrow Appeal' sounds familiar, it's because much has been made in the press about Letby's involvement with the campaign. Mind you, she was not the only familiar face to take part—Stephen Brearey and John Gibbs did as well—to name just two.

As part of the partnership, The Chester Standard ran weekly stories about parents' and babies' experiences at the neonatal unit.

One of those stories highlighted the "emotional rollercoaster" a couple went through when their son, whom I'll refer to as "James," was born eight weeks premature. While the article is meant to be a feel-good piece, what it reveals could shed new light on the accusations against Lucy Letby.

June 2015: Sepsis in the Neonatal Unit

Baby James was born on June 6, 2015, eight weeks ahead of his due date. He was taken to the neonatal unit straight away, and placed in intensive care.

He eventually recovered enough to be taken out of intensive care. But his relatively stable condition was short-lived: when James was eight days old, according to his mom, "he became very poorly with septicaemia, and his arms, leg and tummy all swelled up."

Septicaemia and sepsis are not necessarily synonymous—there are medical distinctions between the two. But when it comes to communicating with laypeople, the NHS uses the terms interchangeably.

Going by his mother's account, James's septicaemia diagnosis came on or around June 14, 2015. In short order, he was transferred to Liverpool Women's Hospital—where, according to his mom, "he recovered quite quickly."

After a four-day stay at the hospital in Liverpool, James was transferred back to the Countess of Chester. There, he began to deteriorate again. In his mother's words,

Just as things started to look up, a lump appeared on James's chest which got bigger and turned out to be an abscess.

The MRI scan showed he also had abscesses on his elbow and ankle as well, and he underwent a bone scan to check on an infection in his hip area. He was taken back to Liverpool Women’s as doctors thought he might need an operation.

In short, a baby boy at the neonatal unit in June 2015 developed an infection so severe that it led to sepsis—possibly twice. The unit, in turn, was so ill-equipped to treat him that it twice had to transfer him to another hospital.

Possible Overlap with Babies A-C

To recap:

  • June 6: Baby James is born at the Countess of Chester. He is sent straight away to the neonatal unit, where he initially spends time in the intensive care nursery.

  • ~June 14: James is diagnosed with septicaemia. He is transferred to Liverpool Women's Hospital for emergency treatment.

  • ~June 18: James is back at the Countess, where he soon develops a noticeable lump on his chest that turns out to be an abscess. Further scans reveal additional abscesses in his elbow and ankle, and a bone infection in his hip area. His condition is so grave that he is at risk for surgery. He is once again transferred to the hospital in Liverpool.

Compare that to the timeline for babies A to D:

  • June 8: Baby A, a boy, dies. The previous evening, he had been given medication for "suspected sepsis." He was being treated in the intensive care nursery, in a cot right next to that of his twin sister. During this period, it emerged at trial, a third baby had also been staying in the intensive care room, alongside the twins. And while, to my knowledge, the third baby's identity was not revealed at trial, it could have been James, considering the overlap in dates.

  • June 10: Baby B, who is Baby A's twin sister, collapses but survives. Lucy Letby will later be convicted of trying to murder Baby B on this occasion.

  • June 14: Baby C, a boy, dies. A day earlier, his doctor had written "suspected sepsis" under "problems." He was also being treated for pneumonia. Even prosecution witness Dewi Evans, in a 2019 report, wrote that, "infection may be a significant factor in his collapse." In an earlier report, from 2017, Evans had written, "One may never know the cause of (his) collapse. He was at great risk of unexpected collapse."

  • June 22: Baby D, a girl, is pronounced dead. A post-mortem examination conducted shortly after her death would identify the cause as "pneumonia with acute lung injury." Before these results had come in, though, Baby D's doctors had had no idea she'd even had pneumonia. And though they'd suspected she had had an infection, they had started her on antibiotics a full four hourslater than they should have. The delay had been inexcusable, but was characteristic of the hospital's sub-optimal standards: A nationwide investigation had revealed the Countess of Chester to have been the fifth worst-performing hospital in the NHS when it came to treating sepsis in a timely manner. The investigation found that only 33% of the hospital's patients who needed treatment for sepsis were given antibiotics within the appropriate timeframe.


The deaths of three babies and collapse of a fourth in a single month—June 2015—caught the attention of Stephen Brearey, the lead consultant in the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital. After ascertaining that Lucy Letby had been on shift for the four events, he began to suspect her of murder.

But there could have been a simpler explanation: babies in the neonatal unit during the month of June 2015 could have been at an especially high risk of serious infection—a risk that could have been exacerbated by the cramped premises. The unit, in turn, had been demonstrably ill-equipped to provide these newsborns with the care they needed.

It's a hypothesis that should not have seemed so outlandish to Brearey himself. When profiled by The Chester Standard in 2013, as part of the Babygrow Appeal charity drive, Brearey gave the following explanation for why the hospital was in dire need of a new neonatal unit:

The nurses on the unit do wonderful work and are very professional despite the lack of space around the incubators. Neonatal intensive care has improved in recent years but requires more equipment which we have very little space for. In addition, the risks of infection for the babies is greater, the closer they are to each other.


The baby whom I've been referring to as "James," as well as his mother, were pictured with none other than Lucy Letby—as well as John Gibbs—in a Chester Standard article published on August 6, 2015.

A quick closing note, and something for all of us (myself included) to keep in mind: While I strongly believe that the details of this baby's experience in the neonatal unit provides important context to the accusations against Lucy Letby, the family featured in these articles deserves privacy. I've tried to shield them by referring to the baby with a pseudonym, though I realize it's not enough to anonymize them completely. Let's just all remember that the family itself has nothing to answer for—and, though unlikely, may not even realize their experience is relevant to the Lucy Letby case in any way.

The views expressed in this communication are those of Peter Elston at the time of writing and are subject to change without notice. They do not constitute investment advice and whilst all reasonable efforts have been used to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this communication, the reliability, completeness or accuracy of the content cannot be guaranteed. This communication provides information for professional use only and should not be relied upon by retail investors as the sole basis for investment.

© Chimp Investor Ltd

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