Lucy Letby went from a hospital’s poster girl once described as a “champion for children” to the most prolific serial child killer in British history.
The 33-year-old nurse was the only child of doting furniture salesman John, 78, and accounts clerk Susan, 63.
She grew up in a quiet cul-de-sac in the picturesque cathedral city of Hereford, close to the England-Wales border.
At the time of her first arrest in July 2018, neighbours of the couple told of their shock as police searched her childhood home just days after Letby and her parents returned from one of their regular holidays to Torquay.
Describing Letby as “very career driven”, one said: “I truly can’t believe it. She was a delight. Her parents must be going through hell.
“Her parents have been my neighbours for at least 25 years, so I watched Lucy grow up. Lucy lives away but visits them frequently as any good daughter would. They adored her.”
She attended a local comprehensive school before moving on to study at Hereford Sixth Form College, where former pals described her as one of the “geeky girls” who was part of a self-styled group known as the “miss-match family”.
Always dreaming of becoming a nurse and the first in her family to go to university, she went on to study at Chester 100 miles away, where pals said she was always first home on a night out.
One fellow student remembered Letby as part of a group who “weren’t girly girls who always partied, but were all very focused on their studies and loved it”.
They described the Ellie Goulding fan as awkward and geeky but “kind-hearted”.
One said: “She was very bright. She was really sweet, kind and friendly and always part of the quiet bunch.
“I was so shocked when she was arrested because it’s not like her.
“She loved her job, and when she and her friends were in uni they all worked so hard and were all driven and excited.”
Letby graduated with a BSc Hons in child nursing in 2011 and went on to buy a £180,000 ($A359,305) three-bedroom semi in Blacon, Chester, a mile from the hospital she worked at.
She lived alone with her two cats Smudge and Tigger, and neighbours recalled how she lived there quietly.
She is believed to have previously dated a male nurse, who is now married with children, but did not have a boyfriend during the period she harmed babies.
Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Evans of Cheshire Police oversaw the team who interviewed Letby on three occasions.
She described the nurse’s character as “beige”, adding: “There isn’t anything kind of outstanding or outrageous that we found about her as a person.
“She was a normal 20-something-year-old doing what she was doing — her career and with her friends. But clearly, there was another side that nobody saw, and we have unravelled that.”
Letby started working at the hospital in January 2012 as a Band Five nurse and went on to earn around £32,000 ($A63,876) a year after being promoted to Band Six.
In a 2013 interview with a local paper, she was pictured holding a babygrow suit as she proudly beamed: “I have been working on the unit since graduating.
“I also worked on the unit as a student nurse during my three years of training. My role involves caring for a wide range of babies requiring various levels of support. Some are here for a few days, others for months and I enjoy seeing them progress and supporting their families.”
Letby, who cared for hundreds of babies, helped with a fundraising campaign for a new £3 million ($A6 million) baby unit, and colleagues described her as a “champion for children”.
She was also undergoing intensive care training and had completed two placements at Liverpool Women’s Hospital in 2012 and 2015.
Reflecting her passion for the job, she “liked” Channel 4 maternity unit show One Born Every Minute on Facebook and was a member of 14 groups aimed at helping sick kids.
She told one colleague she enjoyed watching BBC2 series An Hour To Save Your Life, about a neonatal unit, adding: “I just find it interesting to see how our work is portrayed to the public.”
After her 2011 graduation, her mum and dad — who stoically attended almost every day of the ten-month trial — put an announcement in a local paper.
It said: “We are so proud of you after all your hard work. Love Mum and Dad.”
Two years later, Letby was pictured smiling and holding up a baby garment in the hospital’s internal newsletter.
Speaking about her job in the neonatal unit, echoing her newspaper comments, she again said: “My role involves caring for a wide range of babies … I enjoy seeing them progress and supporting their families.”
Despite living and working away from home, Letby remained close with her parents, who kept her room for her to come back to.
Following her arrest, the property was searched by police.
Her trial heard she had a “mini-meltdown” following the deaths of three babies and messaged a colleague in June 2015: “I just need some time with Mum and Dad.”
And after another baby suffered a collapse, she messaged a colleague who was moving to New Zealand.
Letby wrote: “Not brave enough to up and leave. I couldn’t leave my parents. They would be completely devastated. Find it hard enough being away from me now and it’s only 100 miles.”
Her colleague asked: “Where they based?”
Letby responded: “Hereford. I came here to uni and didn’t go back. They hate it and I feel very guilty for staying here sometimes.”
Her parents would visit Torquay three times a year, and their daughter would regularly join them.
They had just returned from one break when police first raided Letby’s house on July 3, 2018.
A loud knock at the door was heard at 6am before officers filed in, telling the nurse she was being arrested on suspicion of multiple counts of murder and attempted murder.
She was taken to a police station in handcuffs.
Jurors heard she enjoyed hobbies outside of work while targeting helpless babies.
Letby was in a pub quiz team and, hours after attempting to kill one baby by adding insulin to the infant’s intravenous feed bag, she went dancing.
She messaged a pal, cheerfully asking: “Are you going to salsa tonight?”
She also enjoyed a flutter on horse racing and celebrated a £135 ($A269) win on the Grand National at the same time she was trying to murder twin baby boys.
She messaged her friends, saying: “Work has been s**** but I have just won £135 on Grand National!!!”
Toys of a monster
Lucy Letby’s bedroom was found adorned with cuddly toys in a false picture of innocence — but police found sinister handwritten notes in the house calling herself “evil”.
Images of her house shown in court showed her messy bedroom with a Sweet Dreams bedspread featuring cuddly toys, including a Winnie-the-Pooh bear.
But officers who first arrested her there in July 2018 discovered a series of notes, including the phrases “Help Me”, “I Can’t Do This Any More” and “How Can Life Be This Way”.
Hidden in her diary, one read: “I don’t deserve to live. I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them. I am a horrible evil person.”
She added: “I am evil I did this.”
The nurse moved into the three-bed semi, paying £180,000 ($A359,305) for it, in 2016 during her year-long killing spree.
It gave her easy access to the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital — and, on some occasions, she admitted turning up to visit babies and see colleagues even when not on shift.
Neighbours on the street in Blacon, Chester, recalled how she always “kept herself to herself”.
But when she moved in, she had already murdered five babies and tried to kill eight more.
Just days after, she attempted to murder day-old twin boys.
Letby was arrested again in June 2019 and again in November 2020, when she was finally charged.
She sold her home for £201,000 ($A401,224) in December 2019 and returned to live with her parents in Hereford.
This article originally appeared in The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission