Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Beverley Allitt: Suffer the Children

Caught Red-Handed

Claire Peck was asthmatic and she was taken to a treatment room to have a tube put down her throat to help her breathe. Allitt was left alone with her for a few minutes, and in that space of time, the child had a heart attack.

"Arrest!" Allitt called out. The team ran back in and revived her. Then they left her alone with Allitt once more, and once more she shouted, "Arrest!" Again the doctors worked to stabilize Claire, but this time they failed. When she died, one of them said, "This should never have happened." He was right.

While an autopsy indicated that Claire had died from natural causes, an inquiry was held regarding the high number of cardiac arrests over the past two months on Ward Four. They checked for an airborne virus, but nothing was found. A test that indicated a high level of potassium in the last victim's blood made the inquiry more urgent. Yet according to the Kellerhers, it still took 18 more days for the police to be called in.

They exhumed Claire for further tests and found traces of the drug lignocaine in her tissues, a substance used in circumstances of cardiac arrest, but never in a baby. Superintendent Stuart Clifton believed they had a killer on their hands.

He examined some of the other perplexing cases and found inordinately high doses of insulin. He also learned that nurse Allitt had reported the key missing to the refrigerator that contained the insulin. He checked all records, talked with parents of the victims, and installed a security camera into Ward Four. He even learned about Munchausen by Proxy syndrome, in which people harm others in order to get attention in some fashion, typically from a medical community.

Det. Superintendent Stuart Clifton, head of the Allitt investigation (Dr. Marc Feldman)
Det. Superintendent
Stuart Clifton, head
of the Allitt inves-
tigation (Dr. Marc
Feldman)

Detectives going over the daily nursing log found pages missing that corresponded to the time period when Paul Crampton had been in the Ward. That was suspicious. They then counted up 25 separate suspicious episodes with 13 victims, four of which were dead, and looked for something they all had in common. The pattern was clear: Beverley Allitt was the only person who had been part of every episode. Within three weeks, they arrested her.

Allitt denied that she had any part in the attacks, apart from caring for the victims. She showed no nervousness under interrogation, but a search of her home revealed parts of the missing log.

While the initial evidence seemed damning, the parents of little Katie who had invited Allitt to be a godmother hired a detective to help clear her. They were soon to regret the trust they had placed in her.

In the meantime, the police were looking into her background. They came up with a pattern that pointed to a very serious personality disorder.

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