A nurse charged with poisoning and murdering her patients tries to recover after being wrongly accused of the horrific crimes. Staff nurse Rebecca Leighton said she lost complete control of her life and wonders if she’ll ever be the same again.
The innocent, once happy-go-lucky and bubbly nurse said, “It was such a horrific time. I was wrongly caught up in it, chewed up, and spat out. I’ll never be able to put this behind me fully.”
Rebecca’s living nightmare began on July 7, 2011, when 44-year-old mother-of-two Tracey Arden died at the Stepping Hill Hospital. A few days later, five patients experienced unexpected blood sugar emergencies. On July 11, retired photographer Arnold Lancaster, 71, died.
Shortly following the deaths and blood sugar crises, Rebecca Leighton was arrested on suspicion of murder on July 20.
According to the Daily Mirror Rebecca said she was aware of the police investigation into the suspected insulin overdoses when police arrived at her home at 6 a.m. However, she never considered she would be the prime suspect.
The well-liked and hard-working nurse recalls her astonishment in her first public interview with the Sunday People.
“Can you believe I offered them coffee? Then they said ‘Rebecca, sit down’. That’s when they read me my rights. They put me in a car. I thought I’d be home for tea. It makes me very uncomfortable to relive that.”
Police interrogated the nurse for three days. Rebecca didn’t find the need to get a lawyer since she knew she had no part in the crimes.
She said, “I had nothing to hide. I wanted to help them. I begged them not to stop looking for the real culprit.”
Unfortunately, investigators and the public didn’t see it that way. Rebecca Leighton was arrested, charged with murder, and sent to prison. In outrage, the public referred to her as “The Angel of Death.”
The former staff nurse explained the horrifying reality of being arrested, falsely accused of murder, and going to prison.
“I was kept under arrest. I couldn’t eat or drink, I was shaking. I had four blankets round me because I was so cold. My blood pressure was 270/130. My pulse was 200 for three days. But the worst moment was when I was charged. I had the worst panic attack I have ever had. When I heard that word I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t stand up. My whole body was pins and needles. I wanted to be sick but I had nothing in me.”
Rebecca was eventually released from jail in 2011 and all charges were dropped.
The real Stepping Hill murderer was nurse Victorino Chua. The 49-year-old father of two from the Philippines was arrested and ultimately convicted of murdering two patients and poisoning 20 others.
Chua was accused of injecting insulin into saline bags and ampoules. Without knowing, other hospital nurses used the tainted bags on Chua’s predominantly elderly victims.
At his trial, prosecutors provided evidence of nurse Chua’s own handwritten letter saying he was “an angel turned into an evil person” and “there’s a devil in me” that had things he would “take to the grave.”
Chua received 25 life sentences, in which he will spend a minimum of 35 years behind bars.
Rebecca described how she’s trying to cope with the devastating events that took place the last few years.
“I’ve had to start over. I’m 31 years old. My career has gone backwards–everything’s gone backwards. I remember saying I feel like I’ve gone back to 16 again. It’s taken me years to try to rebuild my life. Trust is a hard word for me. Why I was pinpointed, I will never know. But I have to learn to close that door and move on with my life.”
Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of the Greater Manchester Police, apologized to nurse Rebecca Leighton, according to coverage by ITV.
“We are very sorry that Rebecca Leighton ended up spending some time in prison. It showed to some degree the amount of pressure everyone was under, not just the police, the hospital, Crown Prosecution Service, to try and make progress in the case, and we are sorry this happened.”
Rebecca Leighton is still tormented by being falsely accused and arrested for the Stepping Hill murders. She continues to fight hard to get over the frightening nightmare she lived through and looks forward to being a nurse again.
Rebecca Leighton says, “I’m a good nurse.”
[Featured image via Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire]