A line of gas in front of the spine was an “unusual finding” on the post-mortem X-ray of a child allegedly murdered by nurse Lucy Letby, according to her trial.
Pediatric radiologist Dr Owen Arthurs told Manchester Crown Court that his appearance was “consistent, but not diagnostic, of the air that had been administered.”
Letby, 32, allegedly injected air into the bloodstream of his newborn twin, Child A, who later collapsed and died on the evening of June 8, 2015, just over 24 hours after his premature birth.
Letby is on trial charged with the murder of seven children and the attempted murder of 10 others at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit.
Jurors were told that Dr. Arthurs, a professor of radiology at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, had been tasked with reviewing the X-rays taken of child A – alive and after death – as well as other children in the investigation.
Looking at one of the post-mortem radiographs, he revealed to the court that there was gas inside the intestine – a normal feature, he said – and also the heart.
Attorney Nick Johnson QC asked, “Anything unusual about the x-ray?”
Dr Arthurs replied: “You can also see a gas line right in front of the spine. It is an unusual discovery ”.
He said such an image would not be seen in deaths from natural causes, but had been documented in cases of traffic accidents and sepsis infection.
He continued: “In my opinion this was an unusual aspect. In the absence of any other explanation, this aspect is consistent, but not diagnostic, with the administration of air ”.
Dr Arthurs said he couldn’t tell from the picture alone that a gas embolism – a bubble of gas entering a blood vessel – was the cause of the death of baby A.
The court previously heard that Baby A had no intravenous fluids for up to four hours on June 8 before receiving glucose through a “long” plastic tube at 8:05 pm, shortly after entering service. of the accused.
At the start of the shift, a cannula to a blood vessel stopped working, followed by two failed attempts to properly insert a catheter into the navel.
Dr. Arthurs told the court it was “possible” that the gas could have been introduced by one of those devices mentioned above.
Mr. Johnson asked, “Have you ever seen so much gas in a baby that it wasn’t explained?”
Dr Arthurs replied: “Only in one other case.”
Mr. Johnson said, “One of the other kids in this case?”
“Exactly,” replied the doctor.
Dr Arthurs said he based his opinion on a peer-reviewed study published in 2015 that looked at how common it is for gas to occur in older children who have died, albeit with “very few babies” included in the study.
He went on to review the deaths of 500 children on Great Ormond Street.
The radiologist also examined X-rays of Child A’s twin sister, Child B, who, according to Corona, Letby attempted to kill via an air injection on the next night shift at the neonatal unit.
Dr. Arthurs said he found no “significant abnormalities” in his X-ray images, including an X-ray taken 40 minutes after Baby B suffered a sudden collapse, for which the Crown claims Letby was responsible.
A nurse, who cannot be appointed for legal reasons, then told the jury that she was on duty the night Baby A collapsed.
Young prosecutor Philip Astbury asked, “How was he?”
The nurse replied: “I had never seen a child like this before. He looked very sick.
“It had a discoloration pattern that I had never seen before. It was a purple stain with white.
“It was everywhere. It happened suddenly. “
A court order prohibits reporting the identity of the surviving and dead children allegedly attacked by Letby and also prohibits the identification of parents or witnesses related to the children.
Letby, a native of Hereford, denies all the crimes reported to have been committed between June 2015 and June 2016.
The trial was adjourned to Monday morning.