NHS boss accused of ignoring Lucy Letby warnings says she was duped

Hospital boss accused of ignoring doctors’ warnings about Lucy Letby says she was also duped by ‘calculating’ baby killer nurse

  • READ MORE: We trusted Lucy Letby, we wanted her to be our baby’s godmother

A hospital boss accused of ignoring doctors’ warnings about Lucy Letby has said she was among those duped by the ‘calculating’ serial baby killer – and admitted she thought she was innocent until the end of the trial. 

Karen Rees, speaking for the first time about her relationship with Letby, 33, said she had refused to believe she was guilty after having regular meetings following her suspension in June 2016 when the neonatal nurse was ‘in complete distress, crying and swearing her innocence’. 

Rees, who was head of nursing for urgent care at the Countess of Chester Hospital and one of the killer’s direct line managers, said the show of innocence convinced her to buy Letby’s story. 

‘She was very convincing. I now know that this was a calculated and successful attempt to make me believe her story, and I was deceived, as were so many others,’ Ms Rees told The Times. 

The retired hospital executive said she now had ‘no doubt’ of her former colleague’s guilt after she was convicted by a jury of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six more. 

Karen Rees, speaking for the first time about her relationship with Letby, 33, said she had refused to believe she was guilty 

Letby was sentenced to 14 whole-life terms on Monday for murdering seven babies and trying to murder six more 

‘I did not attend the trial so I had an incomplete picture until the verdicts were announced, and more detail provided,’ she said. 

The ten-month trial heard how doctors repeatedly raised concerns about Letby’s connection to a series of suspicious deaths and collapses before she was eventually removed from the neonatal unit more than a year into her killing spree. 

READ MORE – ‘We trusted Lucy Letby so much we wanted her to be our baby’s godmother. Now we think she tried to kill him’ 

The court heard how Ms Rees refused a request from Dr Stephen Brearey, a consultant paediatrician, to have Letby taken off the ward in June 2016 – only for a baby to collapse the following day. She has said her ‘recollections are different’. 

Ms Rees frequently went for coffee with Letby in the two years after her suspension. When she retired in March 2018 – four month after Letby’s arrest – the nurse went along to her leaving party. 

She has claimed that no performance issues had been raised about Letby until she was contacted by Dr Brearey on June 24, 2016. 

Ms Rees was presented with an outstanding achievement award by the trust on October, 2, 2015 — just weeks after Letby attempted to murder two babies.

She received the accolade for ‘leading from the front’ and supporting staff to create a ‘safer experience for patients’.

In 2017, she was presented with another internal award, this time as the nurse of the year at the trust’s annual Celebration of Achievement Awards in a glitzy ceremony at Chester Racecourse. 

In 2017, Ms Rees (left) was crowned Nurse of the Year at the hospital trust’s annual Celebration of Achievement Awards 

On its social media account, the hospital described it as a ‘thoroughly well-deserved’ win ‘for one of our true nursing stalwarts’.

The twice-married mother now runs a luxury holiday rental near her home in rural Denbighshire, North Wales, with her second husband.

The couple rent out the high-end lodges on the edges of their farm for £800 each for a three-night stay. The two cabins each boast a terrace, two bedrooms and a hot tub overlooking rolling hills.

Dr Susan Gilby, the Countess of Chester Hospital’s former medical director, has said failures to deal with complaints about Letby ‘more likely than not’ led to the deaths of babies.

Dr Gilby and then-trust chairman Sir Duncun Nichol commissioned an urgent review after she took over the hospital in 2018. 

‘The evidence we’d seen and the discussions I have with paediatricians led us to be concerned that there were lessons to be learned,’ she told The Telegraph.

Ms Rees frequently went for coffee with Letby in the two years after her suspension

A corridor within the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit where Letby worked

The anaesthetist and intensive care doctor claims that the evidence she found during the probe made her ‘fear’ that some of the baby deaths ‘could have been avoided’ if management had ‘responded differently’.

Dr Gilby told Sky News yesterday that there was ‘certainly a possibility’ that management failures to deal with complaints led to lives being needlessly lost.

She added: ‘But it needs to be an external and objective review, looking at all the evidence, and giving people the right of reply to that evidence, that will come to that conclusion, and not for individuals such as myself.

‘From a personal point of view, and obviously speaking more as a mother than a doctor or a senior leader in the NHS, it’s my greatest fear and I think it’s more likely than not that that will turn out to be the case.

‘I sincerely hope that it isn’t.’

The trust suspended Dr Gilby last December and she has since resigned from her position. 

She is now taking the trust to an employment tribunal, alleging that chairman Ian Haythornthwaite ‘bullied, harassed and undermined’ her after she launched the prove into the neonatal unit where Letby worked.

Letby was sentenced to 14 whole-life terms on Monday. 

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