Healthcare worker arrested on suspicion of murdering eight babies in UK

Police investigating the deaths of 17 newborns at the hospital 2015 and 2016

Cheshire police said a healthcare worker is under arrest on suspicion of the murder of eight babies and the attempted murder of another six after an investigation of the neo-natal unit at the hospital in the UK. File photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Cheshire police said a healthcare worker is under arrest on suspicion of the murder of eight babies and the attempted murder of another six after an investigation of the neo-natal unit at the hospital in the UK. File photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

 

A healthcare worker in Cheshire has been arrested on suspicion of murdering eight babies and attempting to kill another six. The woman’s arrest follows a police investigation into the deaths of 17 babies and 15 “non-fatal collapses” at a neo-natal unit at the Countess of Chester hospital.

Cheshire constabulary declined to say if the woman, who is in custody, is a nurse, a doctor or another health professional. And Det Insp Paul Hughes, who is in charge of the investigation into the deaths between June 2015 and June 2016, said it was still at an early stage.

“Whilst this is a significant step forward in our inquiries it is important to remember that the investigation is very much active and ongoing at this stage. There are no set timescales for this coming to a conclusion but we remain committed to carrying out a thorough investigation as soon as possible,” he said.

The police investigation followed the publication of a report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) into the high death rate at the neo-natal unit. Two babies died in the unit in 2013 and three died in 2014, compared with eight in 2015 and five in 2016. The report found that, although most of the dead babies were subject to post-mortem examinations, these did not include systematic tests for toxicology, blood electrolytes or blood sugar.

Property search

Mr Hughes described the investigation as highly complex and very sensitive as police sought to establish in detail what led to the babies’ deaths and collapses.

“Due to the nature of the case and, as part of our ongoing enquiries, we have consulted with a number of medical specialists to ensure that we carry out as thorough an investigation as possible. We have also spoken to a large number of people to gather as much information as we can,” he said.

“As a result of our ongoing enquiries we have today arrested a healthcare professional in connection with the investigation. She was arrested earlier this morning on suspicion of murder in relation to eight of the babies and attempted murder in relation to six of the babies and is currently in custody.”

The Countess of Chester declined to comment on whether any staff had been suspended but police confirmed they were searching a property in Chester about a mile from the hospital, as part of the investigation. The Countess of Chester’s medical director Ian Harvey was supporting the police with their ongoing investigation.

“Asking the police to look into this was not something we did lightly, but we need to do everything we can to understand what has happened here and get the answers we and the families so desperately want,” he said.