In this case we look at one of the most notorious female serial killers in the UK, she was dubbed the “Angel of Death” as over the span of 59 days in 1991 she murdered four children, attempted to murder a further three and caused serious life long injury to another six, all of these children were entrusted into her care while she was a state enrolled nurse on the children’s ward in Grantham and Kesteven Hospital, Lincolnshire.
Allitt was born on 4th October 1968 and grew in the village of Corby Glen, near the town of Grantham, Lincolnshire. Her parents worked locally with her father in an off-licence and her mother as a school cleaner. There were reports that during her childhood Allitt would use fake injuries to gain attention from those around her, she would do this by wearing bandages and casts over her “wounds”, when she would be challenged she would refuse to let anyone examine the injuries. This behaviour continued into her teens with an excessive number of visits to the hospital with numerous physical complaints, things escalated to a point where Allitt was able to convince one doctor to remove her appendix with no reason. She continued this until a doctor would start to question whether she was legitimately unwell and then start “doctor shopping” to move on to another physician.
Allitt failed the entry test get to into Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ school, a girls grammar school with academy status so she attended Charles Read Secondary Modern School, during her education she volunteered for after school baby-sitting jobs in the local community, she then left school at 16-years-old to take a course in nursing at Grantham College.
While studying her strange behaviours continued and escalated as she took a job in a nursing home, she was suspected of smearing faeces on the walls and had poor attendance due to the continued claims of illness, as a result of this she failed her nursing exams. Allitt was however still able to obtain a position working at Grantham and Kesteven Hospital as a State Enrolled Nurse assigned to Children’s Ward 4.
On 23rd February 1991 Allitt took her first victim, 7-week-old Liam Taylor was the youngest of her victims, he was admitted to the Children’s Ward on 21st February 1991 with a chest infection/possible pneumonia, his parents were informed the following morning that Taylor had suffered respiratory problems through the night, but had recovered and was doing well. Allitt volunteered to work night duty the following night, which would include watching over Taylor. Allitt called for a code team during the night as Taylor had stopped breathing, despite the efforts of the team Liam Taylor had suffered brain damage and was left on life support leaving his parents to make the devastating decision to switch off his life support. Allitt had administered a fatal dose of insulin, murdering Liam Taylor, but his death was listed at the time as heart failure, other nurses on the ward admitted they were confused about the failure of the apnea monitors to alert them to Taylor not breathing, but no suspicion fell on Allitt.
Two weeks later on 5th March 1991 Allitt struck again, 11-year-old Timothy Hardwick who had cerebral palsy was admitted after suffering epileptic seizures, once again Allitt volunteered to oversee his care, once alone with Allitt his heart stopped and the code team was called, they could not resuscitate Hardwick and his death was attributed to his epilepsy, but there was no obvious cause of death found.
Just three days after murdering Timothy Hardwick, Allitt attempted to murder 1-year-old Kayley Desmond, on 8th March 1991. she had been admitted to the ward five days earlier on 3rd March 1991 with a chest infection, Allitt was assigned as her nurse in her stay on the ward Desmond’s condition seemed to be improving when she suddenly went into cardiac arrest. She was resuscitated and transferred to another hospital in Nottingham, while at the other hospital one of the doctors examined her and found an unexplained puncture mark under her armpit and an air bubble, it was put down an accidental injection and never investigated further, fortunately Desmond made a full recovery after her transfer to Nottingham.
Allitt’s struck again on 20th March 1991, 5-month-old Paul Crampton was admitted to the ward with Bronchitis, he was taken care of by Allitt just before he was due to be discharged, he ended up nearly comatose and blood work showed a high level insulin, he suffered the same symptoms a further three times before being transferred to the hospital in Nottingham, he arrived and again a high level of insulin was found in his blood, during the transfer Allitt travelled with him in the ambulance, Crampton did make a full recovery after being treated at the hospital in Nottingham.
On 21st March 1991 Allit attempted to murder 5-year-old Bradley Gibson when he was admitted for pneumonia, he went into cardiac arrest twice while Allitt was caring for him, after the first arrest his blood was tested and found to also have a high level of insulin, he was then also transferred to Nottingham and recovered.
On the same day, 21st March 1992, Allitt saw another potential victim in 2-year-old Yik Hung Chan, he was admitted to the ward after falling from a window and suffering a skull fracture, he was left under Allitt’s care and twice he suffered an oxygen desaturation attack, he was then transferred to Nottingham, his symptoms were attributed to the head injury he had sustained during the fall.
On 1st April 1991 after the several failed attempts Allitt murdered 2-month-old Becky Phillips, she was admitted for gastroenteritis, she started to exhibit symptoms of hypoglycemia, she was examined and nothing was found to be wrong so Phillips was sent home with her mother, during the night she went into convulsions. Her parents contacted a physician who told them she was probably suffering with colic, she died later that night with the cause of death recorded as cot death.
Becky Phillips’ sister Katie was admitted to the ward as a precaution following her sister’s death, she was placed with Allitt and stopped breathing, she was successfully resuscitated, but stopped breathing again two days later, this time she was left with permanent brain damage due to prolonged oxygen deprivation. Katie was later transferred and examined at another hospital and they found that her apneic spells had been caused by large doses of insulin and potassium. Once Katie had recovered her mother Sue was so grateful to Allitt that she asked her to be Katie’s god mother, a role Allitt accepted.
Allitt continued to work unsuspected on the ward until she took her final victim 15-month-old Claire Peck on 22nd April 1991, she was admitted to the ward after a serious asthma attack which required her to be placed on a ventilator, she suffered a cardiac arrest shortly after being placed in Allitt’s care, she was resuscitated and stabilized, but once again when alone with Allitt she went into arrest again, one which doctors could not successfully save her. An autopsy was performed on Peck and it was initially indicated that she had died of natural causes, but an inquiry was initiated by a consultant at the hospital, Dr. Nelson Porter was alarmed by the sudden high number of cardiac arrests over the past 3 months at the hospital with the initial suspicion being that there was an airborne virus, but no evidence was found. Peck’s blood was tested and it was found that she had a high level of potassium in blood, leading to the police being called, by now Peck had been buried, so in she was exhumed and traces of Lignocaine was found in her tissue, this drug is often given during cardiac arrest, but never to a baby.
Police Superintendent Stuart Clifton was assigned to the investigation into Clarie Peck’s death and immediately suspected foul play, leading him to examine a further 25 suspicious cases from Ward 4, most showed high doses of insulin or potassium, futher evidence then revealed that Allitt had reported a key to the insulin fridge missing. More records were checked and revealed missing daily nursing logs from the time period when Paul Crampton had been on the ward, the only common factor in every suspicious case other than the drugs was the nurse on duty, Beverly Allitt.
By 26th July 1991, police felt they had collected enough evidence from their investigation to charge Allitt with murder, but she wasn’t formally charged until November 1991.
During interrogation Allitt was calm and denied any part in the murders insisting that she had been caring for the victims, but a search of her home revealed she had hidden the missing parts of the nursing logs and background checks run by the police showed a pattern of behaviour reflective of a serious personality disorder, specifically Munchausen’s syndrome and Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy, this was confirmed by healthcare professionals while she was examined awaiting trial, although fairly unusual for an individual to display symptoms of both conditions.
Allitt refused to confess to the murders and attacks, after a series of hearings she was eventually charged with 4 counts of murder, 11 counts of attempted murder and 11 counts of causing grievous bodily harm, while awaiting trial Allitt also developed anorexia nervosa, with reports she refused to eat or drink during this time.
Due to her supposed illnesses her trial was delayed, she eventually went to trial on 15th February 1993 at Nottingham Crown Court, prosecutors demonstrated to the jury how Allitt had been present at every suspicious case and how these episodes stopped now that she was no longer working on the ward, then high readings of insulin and potassium in each of the victims as well as puncture marks from drug injections being found on some victims. There was then further accusation that Allitt had also tampered with machines or smothered some of her victims in order to cut off the patient’s oxygen.
The court then heard about the incidents in her childhood where she displayed symptoms of Munchausen’s by proxy, a paediatrics expert Professor Roy Meadow explained the condition to the jury as well as then discussing some of her post-arrest behaviour such as the anorexia and high instances of other illnesses pointing out how these had also led to the delay in the trial, he concluded with the professional opinion that Allitt would never be cured and would be a clear danger to anyone she came into contact with in the future.
The trial lasted two months with Allitt only attending 16 days due to her “illnesses” and by 23rd May 1993 she was convicted and given 13 life sentences with the recommendation that she serve 40 years for murder and attempted murder, at the time this was the harshest sentence handed to a female offender, but Mr. Justice Latham said it fitted her crimes and the horrific suffering she inflicted on her victims and their families and the mark she had left upon the nursing profession.
Allitt was incarcerated at Rampton Secure Hospital, a high security facility that houses individuals detained under the Mental Health Act. Allitt began attention seeking behaviours again such as ingesting ground glass and pouring boiled water on her hand, in this time she did admit to three of the murders that she was charged with as well as six of the assaults, due to her crimes and her mental state Allitt has been placed on the Home Office list of criminals who will never be eligible for parole.
In August 2006 Allitt appealed her sentence, and by 6th December 2007 the High Court ruled that she would serve 30 years meaning that she will have to wait until 2022 at least to apply for parole at the age of 54. She will only ever be granted parole if she is deemed to longer be a danger.
On 15th July 2018 Allitt was released from Rampton high security hospital to hospital as she had fallen seriously ill with sepsis receiving round the clock care for the condition, staff at the hospital said that it was possible that Allitt would not survive, this is the most current update on her condition.
Allitt’s motives were never fully explained, but with the diagnosis of both Munchausen’s syndrome and Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy it’s obvious that’s was what led her to kill as these conditions make her enjoy the attention that typically comes from people when an individual is ill, she would have enjoyed this attention and the feeling of power that would have come from the manipulation of convincing doctors and the people around her to give this attention and tend to her when they would have thought she actually needed it.
As she got older this developed into a much more sinister need, throughout her career as a nurse she saw the attention she got from “saving a life” from terrified parents when she had initiated a crash team and aided in resuscitation, but she also enjoyed the feeling she had of power over life and death, seen when she resuscitated and attacked her victims multiple times. These feelings gave her a high that made her continue her spree.