In 1991, Beverley Allitt used her authority as a hospital nurse to take the lives of four young victims and attempt to murder or grievously harm nine others. Britain was on high alert when young children–some just babies–were suddenly going into cardiac arrest without explanation. But when nursing logs went missing under Allitt’s watch, authorities were called to investigate. She would later be dubbed the "Angel of Death" on account of her many crimes.
Allitt’s troubling behavior can be traced back to her childhood. As a young girl, she went to extreme lengths to garner attention.
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Not only would Allitt fake illnesses and wear bandages when she didn’t have any real wounds to cover, but she’d also make frequent visits to the hospital when she wasn’t sick. Supposedly, she even forced a doctor to remove her appendix when there was nothing wrong with it. She was also known to physically harm herself for attention, using anything from glass shards to a hammer to inflict injury.
Such acts are often signs of Munchausen syndrome, a factitious disorder wherein an individual feigns or induces trauma to draw attention or sympathy. Yet when pretending to be sick or injuring herself wasn’t enough, Allitt moved on to hurting others around her. And when she began to train as a local nurse at Lincolnshire’s Grantham and Kesteven Hospital, the true terror began. That’s where Allitt began working in the children’s ward and found her first victim, Liam Taylor.
Taylor was only seven months old when he was admitted to the hospital for an infection in the chest. Young Taylor’s illness only got worse under Allitt’s care, which eventually caused him to stop breathing and have a heart attack. He later died on February 23, 1991.
The following month, another child would suffer thanks to Allitt. At only 11 years old, Timothy Hardwick already had a hard life, suffering from both cerebral palsy and epilepsy, but it was Allitt’s hand that eventually caused his death on March 5.
Kayley Desmond was Allitt’s next target. She also arrived at the hospital with a chest infection. Initially, she seemed to be on the mend. On March 8, however, the one-year-old girl went into cardiac arrest while under Allitt's care. Attendants were able to resuscitate Kayley and transferred her to another hospital—where an unexplained puncture mark was found on her body. Although it did raise alarm, the puncture didn’t lead to a police investigation.
Three more emergencies took place on the ward in the weeks that followed, each involving nurse Allitt. Death then struck in the case of newborn Becky Phillips. On April 1, 1991, she was admitted to the hospital under Allitt's care for gastroenteritis. A few days later, Becky was released from the hospital, only to die at home.
Six more children would suffer some sort of life-threatening emergency under Allitt's watch. Sadly, Claire Peck did not survive. The 15-month-old with a serious asthma condition was the final child killed by Allitt when she was admitted into the hospital and put on a breathing tube. The young girl suffered not one but two heart attacks while Allitt was taking care of her. The second attack caused the toddler’s untimely death on April 22, 1991. Later, it was revealed the child’s potassium level was sky high. She had also been given a drug called Lignocaine, which helps treat irregular heartbeats but only in adult patients–never in infants.
In November 1991, Allitt was charged after the nursing logs went missing in her ward. Soon, some of the missing logs would be found inside Allitt’s home during a police search, confirming their suspicion. When authorities checked into the nurse’s background, they learned of her alarming need for attention and diagnosed her as suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a factitious disorder closely related to Munchausen syndrome wherein the afflicted fabricates or instigates trauma in an involuntary individual to generate sympathy.
During her trial, Allitt continued to show signs of her attention-seeking illness. She lost an incredible amount of weight from starving herself and was later diagnosed with anorexia.
On May 23, 1993, Allitt was convicted of "murdering four children, attempting to murder another three, and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to a further six." She was given 13 life sentences (up to 30 years) but would not serve them in prison. Instead, she was assigned to Nottingham’s Rampton Secure Hospital, where she currently resides today.
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