Police charge nurse over deaths at hospital in sabotage inquiry

A NURSE at a hospital near Manchester where five patients have died under suspicious circumstances has been charged.

Greater Manchester Police last night confirmed a 27-year-old woman had been charged with six counts of causing damage with intent to endanger life in connection with the deaths of five patients at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport.

Rebecca Leighton, 27, was also charged with one count of theft of medicine from the hospital and was set to appear before Manchester Magistrates’ Court today.

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Ms Leighton was arrested on Wednesday at her flat in Buxton Road, Heaviley, Stockport, which is about a mile away from the hospital.

Authorities in Greater Manchester also confirmed yesterday that all recent deaths at the hospital will be reviewed by the local coroner.

South Manchester Coroner John Pollard will examine the circumstances surrounding all deaths at the hospital since July 7 – as well as those occurring in the future.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has admitted it was “likely” officers will be asked to investigate other deaths.

GMP Assistant Chief Constable Ian Hopkins confirmed that this would be part of the coroner’s “belt and braces approach” to ensure that all cases potential linked to the inquiry were appropriately investigated and scrutinised.

He added there had been no further incidents of deliberate contamination at the hospital since the police were called in and security was stepped up.

However, he also refused to rule out further arrests.

Detectives yesterday continued to focus on trying to prevent further harm at the hospital. Once that is done they will consider deaths before July 7.

Officers also yesterday named the fifth patient whose death at the hospital is linked to the sabotage.

Vera Pearson, 84, died on July 14.

Officers said saline solution at the hospital was contaminated with insulin, which can reduce blood sugar level.

A short statement from Ms Pearson’s family said they wanted to be left alone to grieve in peace.

She was not among the 14 patients whom police initially believed had been affected by a batch of 36 saline vials sabotaged with insulin.

Officers are also looking at the suspicious deaths of Tracey Arden, 44, Arnold Lancaster, 71, George Keep, 84, and Derek Weaver, 83.

Mr Weaver, from Stockport, died on Thursday after suffering a hypoglycaemic episode on July 11 – a day after he was admitted from his interim care home with breathing problems.

Multiple sclerosis sufferer Ms Arden, of Heaviley, died on July 7.

Retired photographer Mr Lancaster, of Romiley, died on July 11, while Mr Keep, of Cheadle, died on July 14 after being admitted to the hospital with a broken hip.

The results of further pathology tests to find out if insulin contributed to the fatalities are still awaited, forcing the families involved to postpone funerals.

A man in his 40s, who was among the original group of 14 patients thought to have been affected, yesterday remained “very poorly” in a critical care unit at the hospital.

Nine other patients are thought to have recovered from their symptoms.

The alarm was raised last week when an experienced nurse reported a higher than normal number of patients on her ward with “unexplained” low blood sugar levels, pointing to saline containers being sabotaged.

Police found the contaminated batch in a store room close to wards A1 and A3 of the hospital.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has said proceedings are under way to suspend Ms Leighton’s nursing registration while she is under investigation.

About 60 detectives from Greater Manchester Police have been involved.

Since the investigation started. senior police officers and NHS chiefs have been meeting daily.