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The Countess of Chester Hospital. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

British nurse accused of killing eight babies appears in court

A UK nurse accused of murdering eight babies at the hospital where she worked has appeared in court.

Lucy Letby was rearrested as part of a probe into deaths at the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

She is accused of murdering Cemlyn Bennett, Joseph Johnson, Elsie McNall, Daisy Parkin, Barney Gee, Maddie Freed, and Joseph and Eli Gelder. She also faces 10 charges of attempted murder.

Letby’s arrest was the result of an ongoing Cheshire Police investigation into the deaths of 17 babies and 16 non-fatal collapses at the hospital between March 2015 and July 2016.

A statement released by the Cheshire Police prior to the court appearance read: “The Crown Prosecution Service has authorised Cheshire Police to charge a healthcare professional with murder in connection with an ongoing investigation into a number of baby deaths at the Countess of Chester Hospital.”

In 2017, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health was asked to review the neonatal service at the hospital due to an increase in fatalities with “no definitive explanation”.

Its subsequent report detailed gaps in medical and nursing rotas, “poor decision making” and insufficient staffing in some areas but found “no obvious factors which linked the deaths and that circumstances in the unit were not materially different from those which might be found in many other neonatal units within the UK”.

Letby had previously been arrested in connection with the investigation and questioned by police about the deaths but was not charged.

On Thursday, she appeared via video link at Warrington Magistrates’ Court for a preliminary hearing where she confirmed her name, birthday and address but was not asked to enter a plea.

Detective chief inspector Paul Hughes said: “Parents of all the babies have been kept fully updated on this latest development and they are continuing to be supported throughout the process by specially trained officers.”

A solicitor for some of the families involved said they want to learn the truth about what happened in the first few days of their child’s life.

The Cheshire Police reminded the public and media that the criminal proceedings against Letby are "live" and that she has the right to a fair trial.

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