Every so often, there comes a story that is so awful it pushes all the usual crises –the economy, strikes, immigration, foreign wars, climate disasters – clean off the front pages.
Such is the case of nurse Lucy Letby, who has been charged with murdering seven babies and attempting to murder 10 others at the Countess of Chester Hospital, where she worked between 2015 and 2016.
On the first day of the trial at Manchester Crown Court, a mother said that on the evening before his death, she found her new-born baby son with blood on his face and making “horrendous sounds”. Nurse Letby, who was nearby, said the child’s feeding tube had rubbed his throat and caused the bleeding.
The prosecution alleged that in fact, Letby had injected air into the baby’s bloodstream. She was also accused of attempting to murder the baby boy’s twin brother the following day.
Letby, aged 32, faces 22 charges in all, which she denies. The court heard how the twins had been born prematurely and that Ms Letby was the designated nurse for both boys.
Giving evidence, their mother, who was in the post-natal ward, said she decided to visit her son in the neonatal unit.
“I walked over to the incubator and he had blood coming out of his mouth,” she said. He was crying with “a sound that shouldn’t have come from a crying baby. It was horrendous.”
Letby told her that the registrar was on his way and to go back to her ward. She did so, but she was so disturbed she telephoned her husband. “I was panicking because I felt there was something wrong,” she said.
The jury heard that Letby said she was “having a tough time” when four babies died in her care. A fellow nurse messaged her that she was “on a terrible run of very bad luck” and she responded that she felt “just awful”.
The prosecution said Letby gave the grieving parents of the crying, bloodied baby a memory box just four days after she allegedly murdered him.
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This column recently told of the extravagant methods employed by the protest group Just Stop Oil to curb the use of oil and its negative effects on the climate.
Throwing soup at works of art, protesters gluing themselves to busy roads, spraying paint on chosen stores were some of their tactics.
However, there has been no significant response and I wonder if a small-scale protest, such as one I just read about, might be a better idea.
A couple of years ago in the riverside town of North Shields in the North of England, concerned locals known as Citizens UK were dismayed by the deterioration of their local park, where trees had died and children’s swings were broken.
An appeal to the local council brought a letter stating that the reasons there were no new swings was that the local dogs would eat them.
The citizens’ response was to invite the local media to a drama in the park where the local Catholic priest, dressed up as a dog, pretended to eat the swings.
The council seem to have found the publicity embarrassing because funding was found for the park, where trees are now growing and children are swinging on the swings.
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When Detective Constable Kevin Golledge described Jason Macdonald’s crime as “despicable”, he was, in my view, understating it. Surely making money out of the grief of others is as low as you can get.
What MacDonald did was set up a fake GoFundMe page online, pretending to assist the families of four men, aged 19 and 20, who died in a multiple car crash near Caine, Wiltshire, in 2020.
The phoney appeal raised £6,479, which MacDonald, aged 38, from Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, pocketed.
At Swindon Crown Court, he was sentenced to 26 months in prison, which many might feel to be not long enough!
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When the Salvation Army realised it had never received a donation from Glasgow’s wealthiest lawyer, a volunteer arranged to go and see him. He said, “Your annual income is over three million pounds, yet you don’t give a penny to charity. Would you like to give something to the Salvation Army?”
Replied the lawyer, “Did you know that my dying mother has accrued huge healthcare bills which she cannot possibly pay? That my brother is a wounded army veteran in a wheelchair who is unable to support his family? That my sister was left penniless when her husband died in a car accident?”
The embarrassed Salvation Army man shook his head and said, “I’m so sorry, I had no idea.”
“Well, then,” the lawyer said, “if I didn’t give any cash to them, what makes you think I would give any to you?”