|Angel of Death
|4 Oct 1968
|Liam Taylor - 7 weeks
Tim Hardwick - 11
Becky Phillips - 2 mo
Claire Peck - 15 mo
Beverly Allitt was a nurse suffering from the mental health illness known as Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy (a desire to kill or injure others to get attention).
As a child Allitt showed some worrying signs, including wearing bandages and plaster casts over wounds that she would then use to draw attention to herself. She Became overweight as a teenager, and she became increasingly attention-seeking in her behaviour, often being aggressive toward others. She would spent a lot of time in hospitals seeking medical attention for a string of made-up ailments, which eventually culminated in the removal of her perfectly healthy appendix. This was slow to heal, as she would mess around with the surgical scar. She was also known to be an active self-harmer and had to resort to moving from doctor to doctor, as medical practitioners became familiar with her attention-seeking.
Allitt's behavior as a teenager is now seen to be typical of Munchausen's syndrome and, when this attention seeking failed to get the desired reactions in others, she began to harm others in order to satisfy her desire to be noticed.
Allitt went on to train as a nurse at a local college, she was suspected of some odd behaviour while at the college, including smearing human faeces on walls in a nursing home where she did some on-the-job training. Her absentee level was very high, allegedly because of a string of illnesses.
Despite her history of poor attendance and poor marks in her nursing exams, she was taken on a temporary six-month contract at Grantham and Kesteven Hospital in Lincolnshire in 1991, where she began work on ward 4, the children's ward.
21st February 1991, Allitt's first victim, 7-month-old Liam Taylor, was admitted to the children's ward with a suspected chest infection. Allitt went out of her way to reassure his parents that he was in very capable hands, and persuaded them to go home to get some rest. When they camee back to the ward some hours later, Allitt told them that Liam had suffered a respiratory emergency, but that he had recovered. She volunteered for extra night duty so she could watch over the boy, and his parents chose to spend the night at the hospital as well.
Liam had another respiratory crisis just before midnight that same niight, but it was felt that he'd come through it satisfactorily. Allitt was left alone with the boy, however, and his condition worsened dramatically. Becoming deathly pale before red blotches appeared on his face, at which point Allitt summoned an emergency resuscitation team.
Staff were confused by the absence of alarm monitors at the time, which had failed to sound when he stopped breathing. Liam suffered cardiac arrest and, despite the best efforts of the attending team, he suffered severe brain damage, and remained alive only with the help of the life-support machines. On medical advice, his parents made the painful decision to remove their baby from life support, and his cause of death was recorded as heart failure. Allitt was never questioned about her role in Liam's death.
5th March 1991, Only two weeks after Liam's death, her next victim was Timothy Hardwick, an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy who was admitted following an epileptic fit Allitt took over his care and, again following a period when she was alone with the boy, she summoned the emergency resuscitation team, who found him without a pulse and turning blue. Despite their best efforts of the team, which included a pediatric specialist, they were unable to revive Timothy. An autopsy later failed to provide an obvious cause of death, although his epilepsy was officially blamed.
8th March 1991, Allitt's third victim, 1-year-old Kayley Desmond, was admitted with a suspected chest infection, from which she seemed to be recovering well. Five days later, with Allitt constantly by her side, Kayley went into cardiac arrest in the same bed where Liam Taylor had died a fortnight before.
The resuscitation team were able to revive her, and she was transferred to another hospital in Nottingham, where attending physicians discovered an odd puncture hole under her armpit during a thorough examination. They also discovered an air bubble near the puncture mark, which they attributed to an accidental injection, but there was no investigation.
20th March 1991, Five-month-old Paul Crampton became Allit's next victim, addmitted with a non-serious bronchial infection. Just prior to his discharge, Allitt, summoned help as Paul appeared to be suffering from insulin shock, going into a near-coma on three separate occasions. Each time, the doctors revived him, but were unable to explain the changing levels in his insulin. When he was transfered by ambulance to another hospital in Nottingham, Allitt went with him. He was again found to have too much insulin.
21st March 1991, The next day, 5-year-old Bradley Gibson, a pneumonia sufferer, went into unexpected cardiac arrest, but was saved by the resuscitation team. Subsequent blood tests showed that his insulin was high, which made no sense to the doctors. Attendance by Allit resulted in another heart attack later that night, and he was transported to Nottingham, where he recovered. Despite this alarming increase in the incidence of unexplained health events, all in the presence of Allitt, no suspicions were aroused at this time.
22nd March 1991, 2-year-old Yik Hung Chan turned blue and appeared in considerable distress when Allitt raised the alarm, but he responded well to oxygen. Another attack resulted in his transferal to the larger hospital in Nottingham, where he recovered. His symptoms were attributed to a fractured skull, the result of a fall.
1st April 1991, twins Katie and Becky Phillips, just 2-months-old, were kept in for observation as a result of their premature delivery. A bout of gastro-enteritis brought Becky into ward 4. where Nurse Allitt took over her care. Two days later, Allit raised the alarm, claiming that Becky appeared hypoglycemic and cold to the touch, but no ailment was found. Baby Becky was sent home with her mother.
During the night, she went into convulsions and cried out in apparent pain but, when summoned, a doctor suggested she had simple colic. The parents kept her in their bed for observation, and she died during the night. Despite an autopsy, pathologists could find no clear cause of death.
Becky's surviving twin, Katie, was admitted to Grantham Hospital as a precaution and, unfortunately for her, Allitt was again the nurse on duty. It wasn't long before Allitt was again summoning a resuscitation team to revive baby Katie, who had stopped breathing. Efforts to revive Katie were successful, but two days later she suffered a similar attack, which resulted in the collapse of her lungs. Following another revival effort, she was transferred to Nottingham, where it was found that five of her ribs were broken, in addition to having suffered serious brain damage as a result of her oxygen deprivation.
Four more victims followed, finally causing suspicions to be raised at the hospital.
22nd April 1991, 15-month-old Claire Peck was brought onto ward 4, an asthmatic who required a breathing tube. While in Allit's care for only a few minutes, the infant suffered a heart attack. The resuscitation team revived her successfully but, when again alone in Allit's presence, baby Claire suffered a second attack, from which she could not be revived.
Although an autopsy indicated that Claire had died from natural causes, an inquiry was initiated by a consultant at the hospital, Dr. Nelson Porter, who was alarmed by the high number of cardiac arrests over the previous two months in the children's ward. An airborne virus was initially suspected, but nothing was found. A test that revealed a high level of potassium in baby Claire's blood resulted in the police being summoned 18 days later. Her exhumation discovered traces of Lignocaine in her system, a drug used during cardiac arrest, but never given to a baby.
The investigating police assigned to the case, Stuart Clifton, suspected foul play and he examined the other suspicious cases that had occurred in the previous two months, finding very high doses of insulin in most. Further evidence revealed that Allitt had reported the key to the insulin refrigerator missing. All records were checked, parents of the victims were interviewed, and a security camera was installed.
Suspicions were raised further when record checks revealed missing daily nursing logs, which corresponded to the time period when Paul Crampton had been in the ward. When 25 separate suspicious episodes with 13 victims were identified, four of whom were dead, the only common factor was the presence of Nurse Beverley Allitt at every episode.
26th July 1991, police felt that they had sufficient evidence to charge Allitt with murder, but it wasn't until November 1991 that she was formally charged.
Allitt allegedly remained calm under interrogation, denying any part in the attacks, insisting she had merely been, as a nurse, caring for her paitents. A search of her home revealed parts of the missing nursing log. Background checks by the police showed a pattern of behavior that pointed to a very serious personality disorder, and that Allitt may be exhibiting symptoms of both Munchausen's syndrome and Munchausen's syndrome by Proxy, which are both characterised by getting attention through illness. With Munchausen's syndrome, physical or psychological symptoms are either self-induced or feigned in oneself to gain attention, while Munchausen's by Proxy involves inflicting injury on others to gain attention for oneself. It is fairly unusual for an individual to present with both conditions.
November 1991, Allitt refused to confess what she had done. After a series of hearings, Allitt was charged with four counts of murder, 11 counts of attempted murder, and 11 counts of causing grievous bodily harm. As she awaited her trial, she rapidly lost weight and developed anorexia nervosa, a further indication of her psychological problems.
15th Ferbruary 1993, After numerous delays due to various ilnesses, (as a result of which she lost 70 pounds) she went to trial at Nottingham Crown Court, where the prosecutors demonstrated to the jury how she had been present at each suspicious episode, and the lack of episodes when she was taken off the ward. Evidence about high readings of insulin and potassium in each of the victims, as well as drug injection and puncture marks, were also linked to Allitt. She was further accused of cutting off her victim's oxygen, either by smothering, or by tampering with machines.
Friday 28th May 1993, Allitt was given 13 life sentences at Nottingham crown court after being convicted of murdering four children and attacking nine others. Her arrest followed an investigation into several incidents of alleged tampering with patients' ventilators and pumps delivering intravenous medication at various hospitals in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.
The 'killer Nurse' is now detained in Rampton Maximum Security Hospital for the criminally insane. It is unlikely that she will ever get out, but if she does, relatives of the dead children have promised to kill her. Public reaction to the case was particularly hostile, as, being a nurse, she was obviously in a position of trust and in charge of caring for children. Although no further investigations are ongoing, it is not known if Allitt had killed more of her patients in the past.
It has been reported that Allitt carried on her attention seeking behavior in Rampton, ingesting ground glass and pouring boiling water on her hand.
1999 Katie Phillips, was awarded £2.25 million, by Lincolnshire Health Authority, to pay for treatment and equipment for the rest of her life. Lincolnshire Health Authority did not accept liability, but did acknowledge that Katie was entitled to compensation.
UPDATE DECEMBER 2007
Beverly Allitt had her minimum prison tariff fixed at 30 years.
The High Court ruled that Allitt, dubbed the "Angel of Death", would serve 30 years, as recommended by her trial judge and the Lord Chief Justice
The judge fixed her minimum term at 28 years and 175 days - which represents 30 years, less the one year and 190 days spent in custody before sentence.
Although the trial judge had originally recommended a 30-year minimum, which the then Lord Chief Justice had agreed with, none of the Home Secretaries have since determined the minimum to be served and, under new rules, that task is now carried out by a High Court judge.
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