The mother of a newborn baby allegedly murdered by Lucy Letby heard “horrendous” screams and saw blood around his mouth when she walked in on the nurse alone with her son, a court has heard. The witness, who cannot be named, told a jury she knew something was “very wrong” when she saw her five-day-old son in distress as Letby stood near his incubator.
The jury has been told that Letby, 32, was allegedly in the process of murdering the infant, known as Baby E, by injecting him with air before his mother walked in. She is accused of attempting to murder his twin brother the following day.
Letby denies murdering seven babies and attempting to murder 10 others at the Countess of Chester hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.
Giving evidence at Manchester crown court on Monday, the mother said she heard Baby E screaming after she had arrived on the neonatal unit with milk for the twins.
Speaking slowly in a quiet voice, she told jurors: “I could hear my son crying and it was like nothing I had heard before and … I walked over to the incubator to see he had blood coming out of his mouth.”
Becoming emotional, the woman said she was “panicking because I felt like there was something wrong”.
She added: “It was a sound that shouldn’t have come from a tiny baby. I can’t explain what that sound was. It was horrendous. More like a scream than a cry. I could hear it in the little corridor.”
The witness told jurors the twins were born 11 weeks premature by caesarean section but were both making good progress. She was “absolutely thrilled” with their recovery and had been told that they could be moved to a hospital closer to their home: “I was absolutely over the moon. My two boys were perfect.”
The woman described how she had gone to the neonatal unit to feed them at about 9pm on 3 August 2015 when she heard Baby E’s “horrendous” screams from the corridor.
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Letby was the only nurse in the room at that time and was standing by a work station near Baby E’s incubator, the jury was told.
She asked Letby what was wrong with her son and Letby replied that the bleeding had been caused by a feeding tube rubbing his throat, the court heard. The mother said she accepted the explanation but was still concerned.
She was told by Letby to go back to the postnatal ward, which she did because, the witness said, “she was in authority and she knew better than me and I trusted her completely”.
Baby E was pronounced dead less than five hours later, the jury was told. Becoming tearful in the witness box, the mother said she felt “just broken” by her son’s death and was unable to bathe her son, so Letby did it instead.
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She said: “Lucy Letby bathed him in front of me in the neonatal unit. After he was bathed he was placed in a white gown and I just remember being thankful because we had no clothes for him because he was so little.”
The mother said Letby later gave her a picture she had taken showing Baby F hugging a teddy bear that had belonged to his dead brother: “She presented me with a picture. She said: ‘I got this picture. He rolled over and hugged [his] bear. I thought it was so amazing so I took a picture for you.’”
The trial, expected to last six months, continues.