Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Beverley Allitt: Suffer the Children

Escalation

Nursing depends on trust, because nurses are often alone with their patients. If they abuse that trust, the entire medical system suffers.

Beverley Allitt
Beverley Allitt

On March 5, two weeks after Liam Taylor died, the Children's Ward Four received another patient. This 11-year-old boy, Timothy Hardwick, had cerebral palsy. He had suffered an epileptic fit and was brought to the hospital. Allitt quickly took over his care. She was quite solicitous in attending to the boy, but a few minutes after she was left alone with him, she came racing for help, yelling that he was going into cardiac arrest. The staff rushed to Timothy and found that his heart had stopped and he was turning blue. A specialist in pediatric medicine tried to save him, but finally pronounced him dead. It was completely unexpected. Even an autopsy failed to provide an obvious cause of death, although his epilepsy was officially blamed.

Five days later, Kayley Desmond, just over a year old, had been hospitalized on March 3 with a congested chest. Allitt attended to her, too, and she appeared to be recovering to everyone's satisfaction. Then, in the same bed where Liam had died, Kayley went into cardiac arrest. The crash team revived her and she was transferred to a hospital in Nottingham. Physicians there gave her a thorough examination and they found an odd puncture hole under her armpit. Near it was an air bubble, which they attributed to an accidental injection. There was no investigation.

Stymied by this missed opportunity, Allitt struck again and again — three times over the next four days.

On March 20, Paul Crampton, only five months old, was diagnosed with bronchitis. It wasn't a serious case, but he was placed into the children's area. Just before he was to be discharged, something appeared to go wrong. Allitt was attending him by herself when she called out that he had taken a turn for the worse. He seemed to be suffering from insulin shock, and on three separate occasions he went into a near-coma. Each time, the doctors pulled him out of it, but they were mystified as to why his blood sugar kept dropping. When he was taken by ambulance to the hospital in nearby Nottingham, Allitt rode with him, and he was again found to have too much insulin. He didn't die, but he came very close.

The next day, five-year-old Bradley Gibson had pneumonia, but quite suddenly he suffered a heart attack. The team saved him after half an hour of strenuous effort, and to its amazement, blood tests showed that his insulin was high. It made no sense. When he had another heart attack later that night, after being attended by Allitt, he was transported to Nottingham, where he recovered.

At this point, things should have seemed suspicious, but no one around Allitt was looking over her shoulder. She continued with her quiet aggression, but rested for a day before trying again.

This time Yik Hung Chan, age 2, turned blue and appeared to be suffering some attack when Allitt raised the alarm, but he responded well to oxygen. Then a few hours later it happened again, so he was taken to the larger hospital in Nottingham. He had come very close to dying, but his symptoms were attributed to the fact that he'd fallen from a window and fractured his skull.

At that point, Allitt turned her attention to twins, but in a bizarre twist, the mother actually befriended her.

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