Angel of Death
Beverly Allitt, better known as the "Angel of
Death", is one of Britian's most notorious female serial killers. Her
murderous spree was all the more shocking because she would befriend
the parents of her victims who entrusted their children into her care.
As a child, Beverly would use factitious injuries
in order to gain attention. She took to wearing bandages and casts
over "wounds" but would not allow them to be examined. As a teenager
an overweight Beverly began spending an excessive amount of time in
hospitals with numerous physical complaints. At one point she
convinced a surgeon to remove a perfectly healthy appendix. When they
realized what she was doing she would doctor-shop, moving on from one
physician to the next.
She attended Grantham college in Lincolnshire and
trained as a nurse. Her bizarre behavior continued throughout her
training. While working at a nursing home she was suspected of
smearing feces on the walls. Her attendance during her training was
poor due to her many illnesses and as a result she failed her nursing
examinations. Still she was able to obtain a position at Grantham and
Kesteven Hospital in Lincolnshire in 1991 as a State Enrolled Nurse.
Beverly was assigned to Children's Ward 4.
On February 21, 1991 seven-week-old Liam Taylor was
admitted to the ward for possible pneumonia. After Allitt had
reassured his parents that he was in capable hands and would be well
cared for they went home for the night. When they returned the next
morning they were informed that he had suffered respiratory problems
during the night but that he had recovered and appeared to be doing
well. The next night Allitt volunteered for extra night duty. At one
point during the night she was left alone with little Liam and moments
later Allitt summoned the code team. He had stopped breathing. Despite
the efforts of the team Liam had suffered severe brain damage and was
being maintained on life support. Knowing that he would never recover
his parents made the heart rending choice to remove him from life
support. His death was listed as heart failure. Even though her fellow
nurses were confused about the failure of the apnea monitors to alarm
when Liam stopped breathing Allitt was never questioned.
Two weeks later, 11-year- old Timothy Hardwick, who
suffered from cerebral palsy, was admitted after suffering an
epileptic seizure. Allitt volunteered to care for him. Within a few
moments of being left alone in her care, his heart stopped. And again,
despite the efforts of the code team they were unable to revive him.
His death was attributed to his epilepsy even though no obvious cause
of death was found.
On March 3, 1991, one-year-old Kayley Desmond was
admitted to Ward 4 for a chest infection. Allitt was assigned as her
nurse. She was well on the road to recovery when 5 days later she
inexplicably went into cardiac arrest.
She was successfully resusitated and transferred to another hospital
in Nottingham. While she was being examined the physicians noticed a
peculiar puncture mark under her armpit and an air bubble. It appeared
to be an accidental injection and was never investigated.
On March 20, 1991, five-month-old was admitted for
Bronchitis. Shortly before he was to be discharged he was taken care
of by Allitt. He was nearly comatose and when his blood was checked he
was found to have a high level of insulin. He would suffer from the
same symptoms three more times before he was transferred to another
hospital in Nottingham. When he arrived at the hospital his blood was
checked and he was again found to have a high level of insulin. The
nurse that was sent with him in the ambulance was none other than
Beverly Allitt. Miraculously he survived.
March 21, 1991, five-year-old Bradley Gibson was
admitted for Pneumonia. Later that evening he went into cardiac arrest
but was successfully resuscitated. When his blood was tested he was
found to have a high level of insulin. He was cared for again by
Allitt and his heart stopped again. After he was resuscitated he was
transferred to another hospital in Nottingham.
Sadly no one was suspicious enough to connect the
dots back to Allitt. She was free to continue wreaking havoc on poor
March 21, 1991, two-year-old Yik Hung Chan was
admitted to Ward 4 after falling from a window and suffering a skull
fracture. While he was being cared for by Allitt, his oxygen levels
dropped dangerously low twice. He was transferred to a larger hospital
in Nottingham. His symptoms were attributed to his head injury.
On April 1, 1991, two-month-old Becky Phillips was
admitted for a stomach virus. While being cared for by Allitt she
began exhibiting symptoms of hypoglycemia. She was examined and
finding nothing wrong Becky was sent home with her mother. During the
night she went into convulsions and when her parents contact a
physician they were told that she probably had colic. She died later
As a precaution her twin sister, Katie Phillips was
admitted to Ward 4. Not long after being cared for by Allitt she
stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated. Two days later she
stopped breathing again but this time she suffered permanent brain
damage due to prolonged lack of oxygen. When she was transferred to
another hospital it was later found that her apneic spells had been
the result of her receiving large doses of insulin and potassium.
Katie's mother Sue Phillips was so grateful to Allitt for saving her
baby's life that she asked Allitt to be her child's godmother. Beverly
Allitt graciously accepted.
Four more helpless victims fell prey to Allitt's
vicious attacks but it would be the death of 15-month-old Claire Peck
that would bring her murderous spree to an end.
On April 22, 1991 baby Claire was admitted to Ward
4 following a serious ashtma attack that required her to be placed on
a ventilator. After being left alone with Allitt she suffered a
cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. She was stabilized and then
again left alone with Allitt. Shortly thereafter she suffered another
heart attack and this time the doctors were not successful. When an
autopsy was performed it was discovered that she had traces of
Lignocaine in her tissues, a drug that is given during cardiac arrest
but never to a baby.
When the police were finally notified they examined
the records of 25 suspicious cases. In most instances the victims,
four of whom were dead, either had high levels of insulin or potassium
or both in their systems. The only common factor linking all the cases
together was Beverly Allitt.
Beverly Allitt was eventually arrested and charged
with 4 counts of murder, 11 counts of attempted murder and 11 counts
of causing grievous bodily harm. While in prison awaiting trial she
was examined by several healthcare professionals and found to be
exhibiting symptoms of both Munchausenís syndrome, and
Munchausenís syndrome by Proxy.
On May 23, 1993, Allitt was convicted and given 13
life sentences for murder and attempted murder. She is presently
serving her sentence at Rampton Secure Hospital.
Beverley Allitt, or the 'Angel of Death' as she
became known, has become one of Britainís most notorious female serial
killers. This is made more shocking by the fact that whilst she went
on a killing spree that claimed four young lives and attempted the
murder of nine other victims, she befriended the parents of her
victims with her caring and solicitous manner.
Allitt exhibited some worrying tendencies early on,
whilst growing up as one of four children, including the wearing of
dressings and casts over wounds that she would use to draw attention
to herself, without actually allowing these injuries to be examined.
Becoming overweight as an adolescent, she became increasingly
attention-seeking, often showing aggression towards others. She spent
considerable time in hospitals seeking medical attention for a string
of physical ailments, which culminated in the removal of her perfectly
healthy appendix. This was slow to heal, as she insisted on
interfering with the surgical scar. She was also known to self-harm,
and had to resort to 'doctor-hopping', as medical practitioners became
familiar with her attention-seeking behaviours, she would move to the
She went on to train as a nurse and was suspected
of odd behaviour, such as smearing faeces on walls in a nursing home
where she trained. Her absentee level was also exceptionally high, the
result of a string of illnesses. Her boyfriend at that time said later
that she was aggressive, manipulative and deceptive, claiming false
pregnancy as well as rape, before the end of the relationship.
Despite her history of poor attendance and
successive failure of her nursing examinations, she was taken on a
temporary six-month contract at the chronically understaffed Grantham
and Kesteven Hospital in Lincolnshire in 1991, where she began work in
Childrenís Ward 4. When she started, there were only two trained
nurses on the dayshift and one for nights, which might explain how her
violent attention-seeking behaviour went undetected for as long as it
On 21 February 1991, her first victim,
seven-month-old Liam Taylor, was admitted to Ward 4 with a chest
infection. Allitt went out of her way to reassure his parents that he
was in capable hands and persuaded them to go home to get some rest.
When they returned, Allitt advised that Liam had endured a respiratory
emergency but that he had recovered. She volunteered for extra night
duty, so she could watch over the boy, and his parents chose to spend
the night at the hospital as well.
Liam had another respiratory crisis just before
midnight but it was felt that he had come through it satisfactorily.
Allitt was left alone with the boy and his condition worsened
dramatically; becoming deathly pale before red blotches appeared on
his face, at which point Allitt summoned an emergency resuscitation
At the time, Allittís nursing colleagues were
confused by the absence of alarm monitors which had failed to sound
when he stopped breathing. Liam suffered cardiac arrest and, despite
the best efforts of the attending team, he suffered severe brain
damage and remained alive only due to the use of life-support
machines. On medical advice, his parents made the agonising decision
to remove their baby from life support. His cause of death was
recorded as heart failure. Allitt was never questioned about her role
in baby Liamís death.
Only two weeks after the death of Liam Taylor, her
next victim was Timothy Hardwick, an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy,
who was admitted to Ward 4 following an epileptic fit on 5 March 1991.
Allitt took over his care and, again following a period when she was
alone with the boy, she summoned the emergency resuscitation team, who
found him without a pulse and turning blue. Despite their best
efforts, the team, which included a paediatric specialist, were unable
to revive him. An autopsy later failed to provide an obvious cause of
death, although Liam's epilepsy was officially blamed.
Allitt's third victim, one-year-old Kayley Desmond,
was admitted to Ward 4 on 3 March 1991 with a chest infection, from
which she seemed to be recovering well. Five days later, with Allitt
in attendance, baby Kayley went into cardiac arrest in the same bed
where Liam Taylor had died a fortnight before. The resuscitation team
were able to revive her and she was transferred to another hospital in
Nottingham. Attending physicians discovered, during a thorough
examination, an odd puncture hole under her armpit. They also
discovered an air bubble near the puncture mark, which they attributed
to an accidental injection but no investigation was initiated.
Five-month-old Paul Crampton became Allittís next victim, placed in
Ward 4 on 20 March 1991, as a result of a non-serious bronchial
infection. Just prior to his discharge, Allitt, who was again
attending a patient by herself, summoned help as Paul appeared to be
suffering from insulin shock, going into a near-coma on three separate
occasions. Each time, the doctors revived him but were unable to
explain the fluctuation in his insulin levels. When he was taken by
ambulance to another hospital in Nottingham, Allitt rode with him and
he was again found to have too much insulin. Baby Paul was extremely
fortunate to have survived the ministrations of the Angel of Death.
The next day, five-year-old Bradley Gibson, a
pneumonia sufferer, went into unexpected cardiac arrest but was saved
by the resuscitation team. Subsequent blood tests showed that his
insulin was high, which made no sense to the attending physicians. A
visit from Allitt later that night resulted in another heart attack
and Bradley was transported to Nottingham, where he recovered.
Despite this alarming increase in the incidence of
unexplained health events, all in the presence of Allitt, no
suspicions were aroused at this time and she continued unchecked in
her spree of violence.
On 22 March 1991, two-year-old victim Yik Hung Chan
turned blue and appeared in considerable distress when Allitt raised
the alarm but he responded well to oxygen. Another attack resulted in
his transferral to the larger hospital in Nottingham, where he
recovered. His symptoms were attributed to a fractured skull, the
result of a fall.
Allitt next turned her attention to twins, Katie
and Becky Phillips, just two months old, who were kept in for
observation as a result of their premature delivery. A bout of
gastro-enteritis brought Becky into Ward 4 on 1 April 1991, when
Allitt took over her care. Two days later, Allitt raised the alarm,
claiming that Becky appeared hypoglycaemic and cold to the touch but
no ailment was found. Baby Becky was sent home with her mother.
During the night, Becky went into convulsions and
cried out in apparent pain but the doctor who was summoned suggested
she had colic. Her parents kept her in their bed for observation but
she died during the night. Despite an autopsy, pathologists could find
no clear cause of death.
Beckyís surviving twin, Katie, was admitted to
Grantham as a precaution. Unfortunately Allitt was again in
attendance. It wasn't long before she was again summoning a
resuscitation team to revive baby Katie, who had stopped breathing.
Efforts to revive Katie were successful but two
days later she suffered a similar attack, which resulted in the
collapse of her lungs. Following another revival effort, Katie was
transferred to Nottingham, where it was found that five of her ribs
were broken, in addition to having suffered serious brain damage as a
result of her oxygen deprivation.
In a supreme twist of irony, Katie's mother, Sue
Phillips, was so grateful to Allitt for saving her baby's life that
she asked her to be Katie's godmother. Allitt accepted willingly,
despite having inflicted partial paralysis, cerebral palsy, and sight
and hearing damage on the infant.
Four more victims followed but the high incidence
of unexplained attacks in otherwise healthy patients, along with
Allittís attendance during these attacks, finally caused suspicions to
be raised at the hospital. On 22 April 1991 Allittís violent spree was
brought to an end with the death of 15-month-old Claire Peck, an
asthmatic who required a breathing tube. Whilst in Allittís care for
only a few minutes, the infant suffered a heart attack but the
resuscitation team revived her successfully. Once more alone in
Allittís presence, baby Claire suffered a second attack from which she
could not be revived.
Although an autopsy indicated that Claire had died
from natural causes, Dr Nelson Porter, a consultant at the hospital,
initiated an inquiry. The high number of cardiac arrests over the
previous two months on Ward 4 alarmed him. An airborne virus was
initially suspected but nothing was found. A test that revealed a high
level of potassium in baby Claireís blood resulted in the police being
summoned 18 days later. Her exhumation resulted in the discovery of
traces of Lignocaine in her system, a drug used during cardiac arrest
but never given to a baby.
Stuart Clifton, the police superintendent assigned
to the investigation, suspected foul play. He examined the other
suspicious cases that had occurred in the previous two months, finding
inordinately high doses of insulin in most. Further evidence revealed
that Allitt had reported the key missing to the insulin refrigerator.
All records were checked, parents of the victims were interviewed and
a security camera was installed in Ward 4.
When record checks revealed missing daily nursing
logs, which corresponded to the time period when Paul Crampton had
been in Ward 4, suspicions were raised. When 25 separate suspicious
episodes with 13 victims were identified, four of whom were dead, the
only common factor was the presence of Beverley Allitt at every
By 26 July 1991, police felt that they had
sufficient evidence to charge Allitt with murder but it wasnít until
November 1991 that she was formally charged.
Allitt showed calm and restraint under
interrogation, denying any part in the attacks, insisting she had
merely been caring for the victims. A search of her home revealed
parts of the missing nursing log. Further extensive background checks
by the police indicated a pattern of behaviour that pointed to a very
serious personality disorder. Allitt exhibited symptoms of both
Munchausenís syndrome, and Munchausenís syndrome by Proxy, which are
characterised by gaining attention through illness. With Munchausenís
syndrome, physical or psychological symptoms are either self-induced
or feigned in oneself to gain attention. Munchausenís by Proxy
involves inflicting injury on others to gain attention for oneself. It
is fairly unusual for an individual to present with both conditions.
Allittís behaviour in adolescence appeared to be
typical of Munchausenís syndrome and, when this behaviour failed to
elicit the desired reactions in others, she began to harm her young
patients in order to satisfy her desire to be noticed.
Despite visits and assessments by a number of
healthcare professionals whilst in prison, Allitt refused to confess
what she had done. After a series of hearings, Allitt was charged with
four counts of murder, 11 counts of attempted murder, and 11 counts of
causing grievous bodily harm. As she awaited her trial, she rapidly
lost weight and developed anorexia nervosa, a further indication of
her psychological problems.
After numerous delays due to her "illnesses," (as a
result of which she had lost 5 stone in weight) she went to trial at
Nottingham Crown Court on 15 February 1993, where prosecutors
demonstrated to the jury how she had been present at each suspicious
episode, and the lack of episodes when she was taken off the ward.
Evidence about high readings of insulin and potassium in each of the
victims, as well as drug injection and puncture marks, were also
linked to Allitt. She was further accused of cutting off her victimís
oxygen, either by smothering, or by tampering with machines.
Her unusual behaviour in childhood was brought to
light and the paediatrics expert, Professor Roy Meadow, explained
Munchausenís syndrome and Munchausenís by Proxy syndrome to the jury,
pointing out how Allitt demonstrated symptoms of both, as well as
introducing evidence of her typical post-arrest behaviour, and high
incidence of illness, which had delayed the start of her trial. It was
Professor Meadowsí opinion that Beverley Allitt would never be cured,
making her a clear danger to anyone with whom she might come in
After a trial that lasted nearly two months (and at
which Allitt attended only 16 days due to continued illness), Allitt
was convicted on 23 May 1993, and given 13 life sentences for murder
and attempted murder. It was the harshest sentence ever delivered to a
female but, according to Mr Justice Latham, it was commensurate with
the horrific suffering of the victims, their families, and the
ignominy she had brought upon nursing as a profession. Indeed, the
impact on the Grantham & Kesteven Hospital was so severe that the
Maternity Unit was closed down altogether.
Rather than going to prison, Allitt was
incarcerated at Rampton Secure Hospital in Nottingham, a high-security
facility mainly housing individuals detained under the Mental Health
Act. As an inmate at Rampton, she began her attention seeking
behaviour again, ingesting ground glass and pouring boiling water on
her hand. Allitt subsequently admitted to three of the murders for
which she was charged, as well as six of the assaults. The appalling
nature of her crimes placed her on the Home Office list of criminals
who will never be eligible for parole.
There have been accusations, most notably by Chris
Taylor, father of baby Liam, Allittís first victim, that Rampton
Secure Hospital is more like a Butlinís holiday camp than a prison.
The facility, which has some 1400 staff to deal with around 400
inmates, costs taxpayers around £2000 per week, per inmate, to
administer. In 2001 there were reports that Allitt was to marry fellow
inmate, Mark Heggie, although she is currently still single.
Allitt was the subject of a 'Mirror' newspaper
enquiry in May 2005, when it was revealed that she had received over
£25,000 in State benefits since her incarceration in 1993. In August
2006, Allitt applied for a review of her sentence which led the
Probation Service to contact victims' families about the process. The
review remains pending.
The serial killer nurse Beverly Allitt must serve a
minimum of 30 years in jail for the murder and abuse of children in
her care, the high court ruled today.
A high court judge ruled that Allitt, dubbed the
"Angel of Death", should serve a minimum sentence of 28 years and 175
days, taking into account the one year and 190 days she spent in
custody before being sentenced.
Allitt was given 13 life sentences in 1993 for
murdering four children, attempting to murder another three, and
causing grievous bodily harm with intent to a further six at Grantham
and Kesteven hospital in Lincolnshire.
Mr Justice Stanley Burnton, sitting in London,
confirmed the minimum sentence of 30 years, which is the same term
previously recommended by the trial judge and the then Lord Chief
Justice. Allitt will be 54 before she will be considered for parole.
The former nurse was diagnosed as suffering from
Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP) when she carried out the attacks
between 1991 and 1993.
The 39-year-old is now being held at the Rampton
high-security hospital in Nottingham.
Allitt murdered the four children by injecting them
with high doses of insulin.
MSbP is a condition identified by the paediatrician
Sir Roy Meadow in 1977, and described as a form of child abuse in
which carers deliberately induce or falsely report illnesses in
children to focus attention on themselves.
The judge said: "I have to say that I regard the
determination of the minimum period in a case such as the present -
and fortunately cases as extreme as this are rare - as a very
"Once it is accepted that the offender was
suffering from mental disorder, difficult ethical and indeed
philosophical questions arise as to the degree to which responsibility
for the offences in question should be regarded as diminished.
"I have found that there is an element of sadism in
Ms Allitt's conduct and her offending. But that sadism is itself, if
not the result, certainly a manifestation of her mental disorder, and
it would be unduly simplistic to treat it in the same way as one would
if the offender were mentally well.
"By her actions, what should have been a place of
safety for its patients became not just a place of danger, but if not
a killing field something close to it."
The four children murdered by Allitt were
seven-week-old Liam Taylor, 11-year-old Timothy Hardwick,
two-month-old Becky Phillips and 15-month-old Claire Peck.
They all died between February and April 1991 while
Allitt was a nurse at the Lincolnshire hospital.
Nine other children survived her murder attempts.
Allitt was subsequently found to have been the only
nurse on duty at the time of all the poisonings.
The judge said: "These were multiple murders and
attempted murders of young children whose lives were snuffed out
almost before they had begun."
Having considered all the medical evidence, he was
satisfied that she was suffering from "an abnormality of mind" when
she committed the offences.
Joanne Taylor, the mother of Allitt's first victim,
Liam Taylor, said she was pleased with the judge's verdict and his
reference to Allitt's sadism.
Taylor, who was in court with her husband, said:
"That's what we all felt at the time. There's a fine line between evil
and illness, and I'll never forget him saying that word today."
David Peck, of Newark, Nottinghamshire, the father
of 15-month-old Claire who died in March 1991, said: "I'm absolutely
delighted with the outcome - and pleased for the other families as
"We can now put this behind us after 15 years. I
couldn't ask for anything better."
Claire, who suffered from asthma, was admitted to
hospital and collapsed when Allitt was alone with her.
Allitt was convicted of her murder after the jury
heard evidence that the toddler had been injected with potassium and