Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Beverley Allitt: Suffer the Children

The First Victim

Map of England with Lincolnshire highlighted
Map of England with Lincolnshire

The new nurse seemed very attentive with the children on the sick ward, although it seemed odd that she never picked up crying babies and showed no feelings when they died. Within two days of coming on the job at the Children's Ward Four at England's Grantham and Kesteven Hospital in Lincolnshire, Beverley Allitt, 23, took to it enthusiastically. No one knew her history or they might have thought twice before allowing her to get close to vulnerable charges.

According to Terry Manners in Deadlier Than the Male, the area in central Britain where Allitt served as a nurse had a population of nearly 100,000 people, one third of which were children. More than 2,000 were born each year and the highest percentage of them were born at the hospital where Allitt worked. Although she had a history of excessive sick leave and had repeatedly failed her nursing exams, she had been granted a temporary six-month position at the understaffed hospital. While relieved, she was also bitter that she had been turned down at another hospital 30 miles away in Nottingham. She was determined to show the hospital administration just how competent she was and also get the attention she craved.

On February 21, 1991, the mother of seven-week-old Liam Taylor brought him into the hospital with congested lungs. He had pneumonia, says Manners, but the Kellerhers say in Murder Most Rare that it was a simple chest cold. Liam's father arrived and Allitt made herself available to both parents. She reassured them that the boy was in good hands and sent them home to get some rest. When they returned, Allitt told them that Liam had gotten worse. He'd been rushed into emergency care and had recovered.

As he got better, Allitt once again reassured the parents that she would watch over him. She had even volunteered for extra duty on his second night at the hospital. Liam's parents elected to stay as well and went to bed in a room for this purpose.

Just before midnight, Liam went into another respiratory crisis, but everyone involved felt that he'd gotten through it and would rest. They all left Allitt alone with the boy and then things really got bad. She sent two nurses to fetch some things she needed, and one of them returned, she saw Allitt standing next to Liam, who appeared to be pale as a ghost. Then red blotches appeared on his face and Allitt yelled for the crash team.

The other nurses were confused. If Liam had stopped breathing, alarms should have sounded, but they hadn't. Soon the boy suffered cardiac arrest and the doctors worked hard to get him breathing again. However, their efforts were in vain. Liam Taylor was alive only because of the life-support machines that kept his lungs breathing. He'd suffered severe brain damage and there was no reason to try to resuscitate him. His parents made the difficult decision of removing their baby from life support to allow him to die. This young boy with no history of heart disease had mysteriously succumbed to heart failure.

Beverley Allitt watched the entire incident without a word, and then put on her coat and went home. No one ever asked her about her part. She went back to work that afternoon as if nothing had happened. She had committed murder and she believed that no one would ever know.

Within the next two months, she attacked nine children and murdered four. Yet to the suffering families, she was an angel of mercy, someone who was always available for their needs. How could a person be so caring and so demented at the same time?

Yet things were to get much worse.

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