THE VICTIM PARADOX – WHY WAS LETBY ALLOWED TO KILL?
As a crime writer, at least in my case, formulating a new thriller begins with who the victim is and how they might die. Then there is the killer and what their motive might be. The two are interchangeable, but these are the two starting elements when throwing a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel, so to speak.
It is all clear cut with no room for confusion about who is who, and, therefore, what the story tells us. In real life, things can be a little more complicated than that.
We all watched with horror at the unfolding account of Lucy Letby’s reign of terror upon vulnerable babies. We settled on the fact that she is a psychopath, didn’t we?
Then as evidence was given in court, we learned of a sinister twist. An alleged fascination with a sympathetic doctor with whom she became fixated.
It seems that when an alert was triggered when a baby died or was in trauma, this doctor would attend and work with Letby, and they would support and comfort one another. Of course, we now know it was her causing the death or trauma. This element implies she was suffering with Munchausen by Proxy.
'Then as evidence was given in court, we learned of a sinister twist.'
The so-called leaders at the NHS were tipped off about concerns by experienced doctors and registrars around Lucy Letby’s activities. Yet, these were not only seen as unfounded, but the whistleblowers were allegedly ‘forced’ to write a letter of apology to Letby for expressing such concerns. This quite extreme outcome enabled her to go on and kill more babies. The true toll of this is yet to be uncovered, I suspect.
Babies lost their lives because a clever psychopath, seemingly with Munchausen, was seen as a victim by fluttering her eyelashes instead of the cold-hearted killer that she was. However, the medical experts working with her were suspicious, yet they were labelled as the bad guys.
So who are the victims, and who are those culpable? We know the babies are victims, but of whom? Yes, of course, it is Lucy Letby, but as sure as night follows day, they were also surely victims of ill judgement, perhaps even negligence, for reasons as yet unascertained. Were the NHS Managers too quick to assume the horrible male doctors were bullying this poor little nurse? It looks that way if they were told to write letters of apology. How strange is that? Were personal biases, assumptions, or even ideologies fuelling their professionalism?
Things can get trickier, can’t they? Academically speaking, isn’t Lucy Letby a victim? She suffers from various mental health issues, Psychopathy, Munchausens, and Narcissism. We agree that mental health is an illness, but when the consequences manifest themselves as something so abhorrent as this, it doesn’t count anymore. Does it?
Are the so-called leaders’ victims because their societal influences and protocols were easily abused and fooled by a calculating killer pressing their buttons?
Are the whistleblowers victims of a system that sought to quieten them down and sully their integrity?
So, if everyone is a victim, who is the damned offender?
We can settle on it being Lucy Letby, can we not? But can we also merely shrug and walk away from the potential negligence of the NHS management who, by act or omission, facilitated an arena for her to murder innocent little babies in the most grotesque way without appropriate intervention?
'So, if everyone is a victim, who is the damned offender?'
I have personal experience of how this madness can run away with itself. It starts as a snowball, and then at the foot of the hill, it is a huge boulder of snow that will melt to nothing, just the same. Twenty-five years ago or so, as a CID Detective Sergeant, I was accused of perverting the course of justice; although never arrested or charged or even given a disciplinary hearing, an investigation and all the stress that incurs went on for two and a half years at the cost to the taxpayer of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The details are too complex and clouded by internal politics to tell that story at least, in detail, now - maybe that is for another day.
I discovered early on that the source of the suspicion came from someone I had dealt with as a legitimate victim of sexual assault ( at least initially) and rape by a gang of youths with a grudge against her. This person was discovered to be suffering from Munchausen by Proxy and had what was described as a ‘shrine’ to me in her house, with my crime novels, press cuttings, and other paraphernalia forming its structure.
Interestingly the so-called leaders of this police organisation treated her as the victim and me as the offender, despite clearly understanding that she had fabricated at least one of the attacks and repeatedly lied and fantasised. I had already flagged my suspicions of this, but like those doctors, was presumably seen as the bad guy being horrible to this poor victim. She later admitted to falsifying a rape and fooling the police surgeon by (look away now) using a hammer shaft to simulate the act. Her motivation was because she knew I would attend as I was directing the investigation into a series of crimes against her, some of which had happened, admissions made, and convictions secured, and some were suspected to be fictitious.
She said she was pregnant by me. (She’d had a hysterectomy years before). And it was this allegation seemingly with my car being seen on the street late at night that drove this expensive and destructive inquiry.
My car was on the street many nights with other officers’ cars, too, as we were freezing our butts off doing covert observations on the house, trying to catch the then-real-life attackers.
You get the gist. Anyway, it did come down to nothing, but the usual consequences and damage to one’s reputation by the time it is over still hits hard.
The decision to treat her as a victim was taken early doors by ‘so-called’ management (they were being manipulated from the sidelines, but still). Once that decision is taken, and maybe it is the case in the Letby case, egos take hold. Potential egg-on-face scenarios blight minds. Self-fulfilling prophesies overtake rationality. Personal animus interferes. Costs undertaken by them backing the wrong horse are considered. Panic builds, lines are crossed, lies are told, anything to justify their costly decision. Their own vulnerability now takes precedence and drives them on to dig a bigger and bigger hole until they reach the point of no return.
My vulnerability was being a mere spectator, aghast at the ridiculousness of it all, as my family, particularly my aged mother, was distraught and impacted forever. She got dementia and subsequently died without knowing its resolution.
Unlike Letby, the source of this debacle was never prosecuted, the officers lying to save face were similarly not pursued (eventually promoted), and I, by then a wrung-out dishcloth, left to my own devices.
I stayed a couple of years afterwards, but the corruption I had witnessed made me lose heart, and I retired to new pastures.
Will it happen again? Of course, it will. It is probably happening right now somewhere. From what we see of so-called leaders in government, local authorities, emergency services, big corporations, etcetera, tainted by ideology, ego, lack of emotional intelligence, and common sense, it will only worsen.
So, dear reader, when writing a nice clean crime story with a victim and a killer, we realise that sometimes life is a bit more complicated than this convenience allows.
*Keith Wright is the award winning author of the Inspector Stark series of crime thrillers.