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Lucy Letby isn’t a psychopath The NHS is filled with 'wounded healers'

Did Letby suffer from 'compassion fatigue'?Cheshire Constabulary/Getty Images

Did Letby suffer from 'compassion fatigue'?Cheshire Constabulary/Getty Images


September 6, 2023   5 mins

When we look beyond the battle over identity politics, the great majority of us share a very clear idea about the way life should be lived. We should be allowed to grow and mature, then decline with dignity as we age, supported by “healers” — whether spiritual, mental or psychological — whom we trust to “do no harm”. With this in mind, it is perhaps the ultimate perversity that healers should intentionally seek not only to do harm, but to bring death. Perverse because it is a turning away from the sustenance of life — that one precious value we nearly all share — and towards death.

When we encounter murderous healers, as we have in the cases of the British GP-turned-serial killer Harold Shipman, the homicidal American nurse Charles Cullen, and now Lucy Letby, the instinct is to cry “monster!” and make every effort to distance ourselves from such horrific behaviour. Surely these people are mentally ill? Psychopaths, deviants: people totally unrooted in basic human compassion.

In reality, this doesn’t stack up. Shipman and especially Letby seemed to be confusingly normal people living mundane lives. They were well thought of — if that is, they were thought of much at all. Shipman was a former rugby player who expressed remarkably compassionate and forward-thinking ideas, very much current today, about care for people with mental disorders. Meanwhile, Letby has been characterised as “beige” — not a word that springs to mind for many serial killers. She was a fan of salsa dancing, adopting cats, and taking holidays with her parents while in her mid-twenties — and was so “nice” that doctors initially discounted her as a possible cause of the deaths. The explanations of her motives: that she had a crush on one of the consultants; that she feared never having children of her own; that she suffered from Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy or psychopathic tendencies, seem contradictory.

In my many years of working with murderers, serial killers, and criminals with a range of complex mental troubles, I have learned that when things seem most confusing, the answer often lies in a person’s life experience, and especially in the “obstacles” they have tackled in their personal relationships. As psychoanalytic theory shows us, people are often poor narrators of their own reasons for doing things: instead, their actions tend to powerfully echo their life experiences. Harold Shipman, for example, at the age of 17 watched his mother die a slow and horrible death of lung cancer, eased only by the use of large amounts of morphine. This was exactly the method he later used to kill his own victims as they struggled (on the whole) with illnesses that they would have recovered from, something that as a GP he would have known.

When it comes to understanding this drive towards death, we must naturally start with Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that there were two “drives” in everyone’s unconscious: an Erotic drive towards pleasure, procreation and life; and a Thanatotic drive towards destruction, pain and death. Each is important because we all eventually have to face up to the temporality of sexual relationships and the inevitability of death. But unfortunately for those of us working in forensic psychiatry or psychotherapy, Freud wrote a great deal more about the Erotic than he did about death. This means that a lot of thinking about perversion — the turning away from life and towards death — has been filled in by other writers and psychotherapists since.

Estela Welldon, a forensic psychotherapist, writes particularly powerfully about “dancing with death”; the idea that for some people a closeness to death provides a kind of life-affirming excitement, a reminder that they are still alive. It doesn’t matter whether this is their own death, as is the case for people who self-harm or consider suicide, or the death of others who choose to express this outwardly (and certainly not always fatally if we think of extreme S&M sex play). Very often, this takes the form of what Freud called a “repetition compulsion”: a compulsive desire to recreate important circumstances from one’s past in a way that induces the excitement of the “death dance”, but provides a sense of control over it. Shipman is an obvious example, but I have worked with many male offenders who cannot seem to help but repeat upon their loved ones the violence they saw inflicted on family members by fathers they swore they despised.

For Letby, her own birth was a “near-death” experience; she was told that her life had been “saved” by the nurses who helped her mother through a difficult childbirth. This has been cited as the main reason Letby went into nursing herself. But what was it that appealed to her so much? A sense of debt to the profession, possibly, although it must have seemed awesome to her that another individual had such power over life, and that she herself could take on this power.

As someone who trains aspiring psychologists and psychotherapists, I meet a lot of “wounded healers”: those who chose to follow such a profession because of their own life experiences. There is nothing wrong with this, in itself, and of course talking therapies equip people with considerably blunter tools for helping and harming than those wielded by doctors and nurses. Yet several ambitious people I have trained have subsequently left the caring professions because the realities of working every day with suffering people can often be more oppressive and harrowing than it can be life-affirming. Young women who seem hell-bent on deliberately harming themselves; middle-aged men with depression so crippling they can barely mumble a sentence in their clinic session; people from migrant backgrounds who can barely speak English, but their distress and trauma seem to seep from their very pores and cause your voice to choke in your throat. All of these cases, day after day, and some of it reminding you of — even triggering — your own past traumas and obstacles. We politely call this experience “compassion fatigue”.

It shows great maturity to abandon your dream when you realise that your fatigue is so strong that you cannot continue. But I imagine that this must be even harder to do if you genuinely believe your life has been saved by the profession you have spent countless hours training in. In that case, where does this fatigue from a constant experience of death and near-death go? The natural, unspeakable response would be to try to exert some kind of control over it; to show that the life-affirming experience of her birth could be repeated through an equally potent act. But, lacking the skill to save truly sick babies, her only way to exert this power, to show that she still lived and her life was worth living, was to take the lives of others in her care. Quietly, and with minimal suffering, perhaps, but was this a choice of convenience rather than compassion?

As the respected forensic psychologist Naomi Murphy has said, to take life in this way is a callous, almost psychopathic response — but the uncomfortable truth is that it is also oddly human. Letby is not anything so straightforward as a monster or a psychopath. Confronted repeatedly with suffering and loss in a world she so fervently believed she belonged, her drive to sustain life became perverted into a drive to inflict death. Only in this way could she feel that her identity, her power — that instinct to care which, in others, kept her alive and then gave her a reason to exist — could be sustained.

It always astonishes me that while those of us working in mental healthcare are expected to receive regular, even daily, supervision and therapy to “detoxify” us from the psychic pain, those in physical healthcare — who, frankly, see far more death and trauma — receive no such consideration. In the face of suffering and death, which was already worryingly common at Countess of Chester Hospital long before Letby worked there, NHS workers are expected to simply get the job done. It feels unreasonable to suggest that, amid a staffing and funding crisis in the NHS, regular psychological support should be offered to those who regularly work with death. Yet at the same time, this would be one way to spot those for whom compassion fatigue had started to eat away at their empathy — and paralyse their drive to life.


Mark Freestone is Professor of Mental Health at Queen Mary University of London and author of Making a Psychopath. He is a consultant to several TV production companies including BBC America’s Killing Eve.

DrFreestone

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Lizzie J
Lizzie J
9 months ago

“Quietly and with minimal suffering” – where did he get that from? An expert witness who helped convict serial killer Lucy Letby has described babies screaming in agony, after being caused “extreme pain” by air injections.

It’s human nature to want to find a motive and if we could it might prevent further deaths, but I found this article well below Unherd’s usual standards when the writer can’t even get the basic facts right.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
9 months ago
Reply to  Lizzie J

Never mind the horrific anguish caused to the parents of those babies.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
9 months ago
Reply to  Lizzie J

Absolutely. I found this article beyond beleif!

AC Harper
AC Harper
9 months ago

I’m sorry but I am not enthusiastic about this type of remote psychoanalysis debate. It allows people too much elbow room to paint their own concerns and views on ‘events’.
Did Letby’s “drive to sustain life became perverted into a drive to inflict death”? That’s a startling conclusion with little evidence of causation or mechanism to back it up.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Maybe it was just a case of that nagging little voice going “what if……”

AC Harper
AC Harper
9 months ago

Quite possibly. Here’s a thought experiment:
You are taken into room with a big red button on a pedestal. You are told that if you press the red button all life on Earth, including your own, will end.
Most will reject the idea of ending all life out of hand. Some may hear the nagging little voice but reject it. A tiny few would press the button for whatever reason. The trick is not analysing the reasons but preventing the tiny few from ever being in that room. How can you tell who is who?

Brian Burnell
Brian Burnell
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

You cannot tell, and that’s where the real world takes over.

In the world of operational nuclear weapons there is a “two-man rule”. No person is permitted to be alone in a room or elsewhere with a nuclear weapon. We don’t have that luxury of not being able to tell the difference between a good guy and a baddie.

If that two-man rule had been implemented with Letby’s baby unit all this grief would have been spared us and the parents

But hey! Our world-beating NHS prefers to spend our money on excessive managerial salarys.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

In my experience it is the top of a cliff or a high building where the little voice goes “stand a little closer to the edge, you know you want to..”

Nicholas Rowe
Nicholas Rowe
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

That scenario sounds very like a scene C S Lewis put into his novel, The Magician’s Nephew (pp 53-67, and in particular p64).

michael levis
michael levis
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Totally agree. This was the one line that showed how grotesquely mistaken this opinion piece is. Expert or not, the author utterly missed the glaring truth staring him in the face: Lucy Letby is criminally insane and, like a psychopath, showed no insight, judgement or contrition for her murderous deeds at her trial. The takeaway message from this essay is to always regard so-called experts’ heads as sometimes too far up their own asses.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  michael levis

Frankly, that’s just name calling. Do you have any particular understanding of or training in psychopathy? If not, calling people “psychopaths” or criminally insane is just uttered because you like the sound of those terms, a bit like some left wingers are always using the term “fascist”.

Understanding isn’t excusing.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
9 months ago

Describing people like Letby and Shipman as ‘wounded healers’ is rather like referring to muggers and looters as ‘failed consumers’.

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
9 months ago

I don’t believe this analysis. She killed those babies in order to gain something – maybe just a little attention, or pity, or interest – for herself, however inchoate her desires may have been.
Putting such pain – that of the families, if not the babies – in the balance against her small self-aggrandisations, makes her a psychopath in my book.

Sally Owen
Sally Owen
9 months ago
Reply to  Gerry Quinn

I completely agree!..

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
9 months ago

Ultimately Letby’s motivations are her own and she will likely keep those cards close to her chest throughout her hopefully very long time in prison. I’m still convinced she’s something of a narcissist with no empathy for others or who is at least extremely petty. Why for example did she have a preference for twins and triplets? One baby in particular (think it was Baby I), she had a real grudge for and attacked her no less than three times before the poor baby finally succumbed to Letby’s assaults. While something in her mind made sense about it, I’m not sure it was the reasons outlined in the article.

Max Price
Max Price
9 months ago

Despite the author’s expertise in the field it is impossible for him to draw this conclusion without working with Letby. He may well be right but she may also be in the dark triad. Very poor article.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago
Reply to  Max Price

That’s a poor conclusion of your own, for the simple reason that the article seeks not so much to provide a definitive conclusion about Letby but to provide a more general discourse around human drives, which many people shy away from. Letby’s case is a means to introduce these ideas in a way that’s currently topical.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

And that’s the problem. If these are general human drives, then we still have to explain why LL committed the crimes, while almost nobody else does.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“seeks to provide a more general discourse around human drives”

Psychoanalysis is bullshit, no matter how pretentiously you want to claim otherwise.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
9 months ago
Reply to  Max Price

I thought it was an interesting perspective on a deeply troubling case. I think we’re all in the dark triad to some degree aren’t we? In fact, there’s a fun test you can do at https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/SD3/

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

I think we’re all in the dark triad to some degree aren’t we? 

It would be a far different world if we were! Indeed the strategies of people in the dark triad only work because the rest of us are not! They blindside us because we struggle to believe anyone could behave like that. Even when we see it, we struggle to believe it. We are taken in – as people were by Lucy Letby.

Perhaps you mean that many of us have some dark triad type traits – vanity, for example, which is associated with narcissism. But this is not at all the same thing.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Your last para, yes that’s exactly what I meant. It’s a spectrum, right?

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

The traits are on a spectrum. People are more or less self centred, for example. A person with a personality disorder will exhibit a number of traits associated with that disorder (to a serious degree). Generally speaking though (and this is not totally settled science) these traits cluster in particular ways. They are not just random combinations of traits at the extreme “bad” end of the spectrum.

Someone who exhibits, for example, the traits associated with narcissistic personality disorder, but in milder form could be described as narcissistic, and on the narcissistic spectrum.

To say we are all on the spectrum doesn’t make sense unless we include people who are low in narcissism too (they are low on the scale). But that doesn’t really say anything.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
9 months ago

Speak for yourself, Simon. It’s only people in the dark Triad who benefit from the idea that evil is common.

Derek Jones
Derek Jones
9 months ago

“ was to take the lives of others in her care. Quietly, and with minimal suffering, perhaps, but was this a choice of convenience rather than compassion?”
Minimal suffering? Really. I think you needed to be there. How very sad and misguided a comment is that. As an ex-nurse of over 39 years and a therapist myself I think that is truly an awful comment to see in print. Perhaps you should complete the psychopath test yourself. Just in case

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago

What a complete load. Leave it to some babbling psych prof to make excuses for this murderer. “Beige”? “Nice”? Seems to fit the profile of all sorts of killers of whom surprised neighbors say “he was just a quiet guy who kept to himself.”
Becoming a nurse and murdering babies in her care to repay the profession for saving her life? That rationalization is utterly irrational. I would love UnHerd to reach out to Dr. Jordan Peterson on the Letby subject.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
9 months ago

Yes, bring in Dr Peterson!

james alexander
james alexander
9 months ago

Bit of a bold claim with no evidence author has not worked with Letby and inflicts his own opinions. A shabby article, I expect better from UnHerd.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

When it comes to understanding this drive towards death, we must naturally start with Sigmund Freud.
Well, no, not “naturally”, given that Freud has been fairly thoroughly debunked.
Meanwhile, Letby has been characterised as “beige” — not a word that springs to mind for many serial killers.
Actually, it does. Anonymity is the serial killer’s greatest ally. The flamboyant Batman villain of the movies and comics is just that, a fiction. The vast majority of serial killers are able to go without being caught for so long precisely because they do not draw attention to themselves.

Brian Burnell
Brian Burnell
9 months ago

Aka Shipman.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
9 months ago

The main point, though, isn’t why Letby committed those crimes.
There will always be monsters, psychopaths, whatever you call them.

The key question is why did the managers prioritised her “feelings” and their organisation reputation instead of listening to the doctors and common sense, and instead of prioritising the lives of young babies.

If they can be so stupid and blockheaded for something as critical like this, how many others important health service related decisions are getting fkd up like this to the detriment of patients and society at large?

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Yes – important point.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

and how did the Director of Nursing get another Trust job WHILE the criminal investigation was ongoing!?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago

If she’s not a pyscho, then the term has no meaning. She manifestly is devoid of empathy.

David Hewett
David Hewett
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

The word you use is slang; it has absolutely no useful meaning at all.

Phil Anthony
Phil Anthony
9 months ago

Oh dear, I fear that Unherd commissioners took a seriously wrong turn in looking for something insightful about these unspeakable crimes. There are two major issues here: First, the author draws on some early experiences in the life of Lucy Letby to identify unconscious drives to criminal acts. That’s hypothetical and can’t be proved or disproved. More seriously, the suggestion that there are many healthcare professionals who are “wounded healers” carries dire implications for us all, let alone grossly insulting to staff. Psychotherapeutic tosh.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago
Reply to  Phil Anthony

Your description of the crimes as being “unspeakable”, on the other hand, is precisely why they need to be explored. I referenced the fact in an earlier comment that many people shy away from these types of events. Whilst we continue to do that, the greater the chances they’ll continue to happen, because there’s clearly something inherent in humans that leads to these tragedies.
Trying to close down these explorations is not only unhelpful, but dangerous, and the reason she got away with her actions for so long was partly to do with the inability to process the possibility she might be the culprit.
The author doesn’t seek to provide a definitive rationale, but in seeking to open up the exploration and introduce the wider aspect of those professionals involved on a daily basis with trauma, he’s doing something valuable. You do him a disservice.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“the reason she got away with her actions for so long was partly to do with the inability to process the possibility she might be the culprit.”
Nope. This was a case of administrative CYA. Those who protected & enabled her should also be prosecuted.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

Letby is not anything so straightforward as a monster or a psychopath.
If she is not a sociopath/psychopath then she is a monster – she would have to be to repeatedly, directly cause the deepest suffering to the most innocent of people – babies and parents both – and have functioning mirror neurons. The author seems to be going with a PTSD type diagnosis, without evidence of any great suffering, trauma, whilst using shockingly outdated psychological concepts. Not reassuring.

David Hewett
David Hewett
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

The term sociopath is not synonymous with the term psychopath. The professor is remiss in not setting out the criteria for categorising these three personality disorders, namely psychopathic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder. They all three share some personality traits, some others overlap in two cases, and there are some which are unique. This is why the largely non professional discussion is so confusing, because nobody who has commented so far understands the diagnostic problems. The author has not succeeded in communicating the dilemma.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  David Hewett

Yup – and there’s more: the professionals don’t agree on terms/concepts. Yet I am quite surprised (polite understatement) that the Prof cites Freud, ‘of course’ to explain Letby deaths (when Freudianism has long been relegated to literature studies, and history of psychology); and that he omits the most salient aspect of a modern understanding of socio/psycho pathology – inability to feel emapathy due to a lack of mirror neurons.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
9 months ago

“Confronted repeatedly with suffering and loss in a world she so fervently believed she belonged, her drive to sustain life became perverted into a drive to inflict death.”???
Let’s see if I’m understanding things here. Two choices. A) She’s a normal person, as in the quote above, who somehow managed to kill repeatedly, without showing any signs of stress, guilt, remorse or illness. Or, B) She’s a psychopath.
Tricky one, that. Let’s hope the writer of this article is not on those committees who decide whether or not to let dangerous people out prison.
For crying out loud, even the Sonderkommando in WW2 had repeated fallout of soldiers who just couldn’t take it. Their leaders soon got to spot the types who didn’t seem to have a problem with the killing.

Last edited 9 months ago by Mangle Tangle
Charlie Two
Charlie Two
9 months ago

Rubbish. and Freud was a Fraud, nothing more nor less.

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
9 months ago
Reply to  Charlie Two

There once was a Sigmund named fraud; Who set himself up as a god;
He won fortune and fame;
Tearing down women’s name;
And nobody thought it was odd.
Hodee Edwards

Arthur G
Arthur G
9 months ago

I’ll just stick with evil. Evil exists and it’s present in everyone of us to some degree.
The extent we suppress or indulge those evil instinct is what makes us good or bad people. These serial killers indulge their evil instincts and thereby become evil themselves.

Last edited 9 months ago by Arthur G
Brian Burnell
Brian Burnell
9 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Spot on Arthur.
In a religious era we wouldn’t have any doubt that evil exists and we would proceed to punishment accordingly. Punishment designed to protect the society that nurtured us and we all depend on to survive.
Our post-Christian world has largely abandoned that, and we are all the worse for that.

Brian Burnell
Brian Burnell
9 months ago

Where does all this bolsh,t come from.

In a previous age not too long ago Letby would not have done her nursing training at university where many caring people would be barred as not academically inclined. Only the academically motivated would be admitted to the nursing profession.

However, in an earlier age more attention would be paid to a student nurse’s personal qualities, overseen on the wards by practical nurses, sisters, and that fearsome dragon, the matron.
I find it impossible to believe that a nurse with murderous inclinations could survive that training regime without being sussed and weeded out.

We pay too much attention to academic prowess, psychobabble and too little to practicalities, as we did with Shipman in permitting him to work alone, and unsupervised by colleagues.

Tim Cross
Tim Cross
9 months ago

It’s perhaps worth remembering that well over 200,000 babies are terminated every year – may of them in late stages of pregnancy by a mixture of lethal injections, suction, etc. They too felt extreme pain. Tim C

Melanie Grieveson
Melanie Grieveson
9 months ago
Reply to  Tim Cross

Agreed.

Melanie Grieveson
Melanie Grieveson
9 months ago

I’ve no idea whether or not this author’s contribution is fanciful or not. Most respondents on here seem to have very firm views on Letby’s motivations and (supposed) character.

I just have a very uneasy feeling about all this; especially coming to light as it did less than a week after a man was exonerated and freed after serving a 17 year sentence for rape, of which he was innocent.

The evidence against her seems to have been circumstantial. Let’s bear in mind the numerous miscarriages of justice in recent years.
I don’t know this woman and I believe there are people who do evil acts (God knows, the last 3 years have exposed some monstrous tendencies in ordinary people given half a chance) but I’d counsel a more open mind than society has exhibited in the aftermath of this case.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
9 months ago

Are you saying she might be innocent, and that there’s been a possible miscarriage of justice?

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
9 months ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

There is a group already who are determined it was a miscarriage of justice. It could be said that all the evidence was circumstantial, but there was such a lot of it.

Melanie Grieveson
Melanie Grieveson
9 months ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

I’m saying I’m not sure. Not sure enough to start flinging round moral judgement after the court case. Having heard how the police can sit on important evidence as in the case to which I alluded, I think it best to refrain from moralising where there is even a slim chance of a mistake.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
9 months ago

So we don’t know her, but she did it because her actions must be in line with our favoured hypotheses about the world? I guess saying that “Satan made her do it” or “It was her bad kamma” wouldn’t make such a nice long article.

CF Hankinson
CF Hankinson
9 months ago

I have tended to steer away from articles about Letby, as her murderous deeds were so distressing but I found this explanation disturbingly humanly possible.
I think it is vital that persons who have to deal with the traumas of others pain and death every day deserve and need psychotherapeutic support.
I wanted to believe Letby was mentally ill, nothing like us, it is more disturbing to understand that pushed to the limits people can become what we call inhuman.
I remember the chill on reading research of how guards in charge of the gas chambers during the holocaust dealt with their daily work. They were tracked down decades later, and the shocking revelations were that they found the job was quite boring. Boring. It’s extraordinary what normal humans will and can do under conditions that are so extreme.
I have given birth and know how deeply raw it is and I remember a nurse neighbour of mine telling me one night, when my baby was small, how she felt so sorry for (x) her male doctor colleague, that day, as a baby he delivered was strangled by the cord round his neck. I was speechless with shock in empathy for the poor mother, her sympathy was solely with the doctor. I thought she was mad. But of course he too needed support as it was his incompetence that killed the baby, he was new to the job but that was a world away from the depth of grief of the mother.. and I realised then that like all front liners to death they lived in a different world to us in the everyday.
So I am grateful to the insights of the article for reminding us of that.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
9 months ago
Reply to  CF Hankinson

But she wasn’t or isn’t mentally ill. Illness is a deviation from the norm. It’s far, far more likely that her norm is psychopathic and that this underpinned her motivations for becoming a nurse in the first place.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

The problem with this analysis is the same as any that tries to explain the specific in terms of the general. We still have to explain why Lucy Letby specifically repeatedly committed these crimes, while others working under similar circumstances did not.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

There is an explanation. She’s a psychopath and her colleagues aren’t.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

In terms of common parlance, she is almost by definition a “psychopath”.

The trouble is that she does not fit into any of the patterns we usually include under that rubric. She does not generally present like someone with antisocial personality disorder, for example. To be honest we really need to know much more about her than we currently do. On the information we have so far she really is a bit of an outlier.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Nope. Many high-functioning psychopaths hide themselves from public view and discovery perfectly well.

David Hewett
David Hewett
9 months ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

No it isn’t as simple as that. On what we know from the media she doesn’t appear to reach the score used to measure psychopathy. However, it was interesting that there was no defence offered based on mental health.

Steve Hall
Steve Hall
9 months ago

Not convinced. The other possibility is that Letby’s knowledge of the status her parents and others attributed to the nurses who saved her as a baby became entrenched in her mind as a principal aim of her life. She wanted to escape her ‘beige’ existence with that status too, and centre herself as the ‘star’ in the drama that goes with it. The horrific thought is that Letby wanted to take babies to near death and be known to have saved them, which she might have done with numerous others, but in some cases took them too close to death to be saved.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Hall

I think this is a real possibility, Steve. However, as others have noted, making such judgements at a distance and without better knowledge of the facts and the perpetrator is dangerous.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Hall

Every criminal has their back story which they are wont to use as a justification. The lie of that reasoning is revealed by the fact that 90% of good people have some sort of history they could weave into a justification; and a similar proportion of people with a truly traumatic back story (sexual abuse for example) do not go on to become perps – and with good reason – they know above all else what it is to suffer horribly at the hands of a bad person.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
9 months ago

We will always have a small handful of murderous nutters in our midst. We shall never really be able to fathom them out and we shouldn’t waste too much time or energy trying to do so because it’s a mug’s game. By that I mean that it will generate learned discussion without saving a single life. What matters is the ability to spot the wrong ‘uns, before they can do any mischief (bearing in mind that they will often appear completely normal) and to safeguard the sick and vulnerable without tying everybody up in a morass of regulation and paperwork.
This is essentially forensic work. Shipman was not suspected because his personality was psychoanalysed but because someone looked, with an open mind, at the dates, times and places of his victims’ death.

TheElephant InTheRoom
TheElephant InTheRoom
9 months ago

How about this analysis – She took up nursing to get close to babies, who she despises, in order to snuff them out. I’m tired of low grade analysis and Freudian excuses for psychopathic crimes.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

I’m tired of low grade analysis and Freudian excuses for psychopathic crimes.

You’re tired? Have some empathy – they (said excuses) are absolutely exhausted!

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
9 months ago

Isn’t unethical for a shrink to psychoanalyze people they haven’t met? This is highly speculative fiction.

Last edited 9 months ago by Benjamin Greco
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Greco

If you are correct, we may as well give up trying to look into the psychology of any historical figure.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Not a bad idea, in my view. It’s a pretty sterile exercise trying to analyse living people we’ve never met, never mind the dead.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago

“Psychopaths, deviants: people totally unrooted in basic human compassion. In reality, this doesn’t stack up. Shipman and especially Letby seemed to be confusingly normal people living mundane lives. Letby has been characterised as ‘beige’ — not a word that springs to mind for many serial killers…”

As is well known, many serial killers are totally unremarkable people aside from the crimes they commit. Gary Ridgway, Dennis Rader, and Ted Bundy are but three famous examples. Ignoring this fact serves simply to make room for the entry of the pseudo-scientific nonsense of psychoanalysis.

A very poor article.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
9 months ago

There are many undiagnosed psychotics around today who live supposedly manageable lives. Their interactions on the internet largely drive their condition, with the accompanying narcissism, myths and delusion about identity, sexual or racial.
The problem is when they take up a professional position that puts others at risk, particularly children. This may actually be the key problem of our times.

TheElephant InTheRoom
TheElephant InTheRoom
9 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

Is that the real Tyler Durden?

j watson
j watson
9 months ago

My instinct had/has been she must be a psychopath and within the small percentage in all populations. fMRI could potentially diagnose whether her amygdala lights up under certain tests as an indicator of psychopathy (gross simplification of a complex neuroscience test but you get the point).
But was still intrigued by the Author’s argument, and how perhaps compassion fatigue/regular familiarity with death changes some for the worse. Never been a great fan of Freud, much of which I think is B/S, and the moment I read those references he started to lose me. But my understanding is a v small percentage of combat zone veterans can also become unhinged as a result of such over exposure. So something in this?
With Letby we’re almost certainly never going to know, but too important to close down thinking on what we might do to avoid in future.

Steven Connor
Steven Connor
9 months ago

‘lacking the skill to save truly sick babies, her only way to exert this power, to show that she still lived and her life was worth living, was to take the lives of others in her care’
I am prepared to believe that this kind of ‘logic’ might be present in fantasy in certain people. But it is also the kind of logic we might expect to be acted on by somebody we might call psychopathic, so it does not do much to help the case being offered here.

David Hewett
David Hewett
9 months ago

At this stage, we simply do not know enough about Lucy Letby’s mind to make any real or sensible judgement. For what it is worth the author is correct in saying that, based upon what we know from the trial and other sources, she does not fit the criteria to be confidently labelled as a psychopath. In fact she displays such a paucity of them that it makes applying that label a dangerous misclassification.
Having said that, none of it detracts either from the horror of what she did, nor the fact that she was entirely responsible for those actions. There is no evidence that her mental capacity was in any way impaired. Thus, the characterise it in the vernacular, she is apparently bad, not mad.
In that case, applying a label, and that is what so many respondents seem to want to do, is singularly unhelpful for it leads us nowhere. That she is a person who is very dangerous and requires incarceration for life is neither an unreasonable nor cruel conclusion to reach at this stage. Of course it is unsatisfactory that this provides no comfort for the distress of all those contaminated by exposure to the facts of this case, but that has to remain a matter which is only resolvable by additional information which will possibly, over time, emerge.
What remains, and this troubles me greatly as a retired, medically qualified senior manager and former director of both a hospital and a Health Authority, is the gross and unforgiveable manner in which the Executive Directors of the hospital behaved in this case. That there are so many other not dissimilar examples of ineptitude being unearthed demonstrates that, in too many places the current management capability leaves much to be desired. They all let down those who do, despite the odds, try to do the right thing.
When many years ago now, I was confronted with a murder in a hospital, I dealt with it promptly with the aid of senior medical staff, and called the police in at once. Organisational reputation never crossed my mind nor did it register with the Chairman to who I reported. Justice was done, openly, candidly, and there was no hint of a cover up. I would have resigned rather than be involved with that.

Last edited 9 months ago by David Hewett
Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  David Hewett

“the author is correct in saying that, based upon what we know from the trial and other sources, she does not fit the criteria to be confidently labelled as a psychopath. In fact she displays such a paucity of them that it makes applying that label a dangerous misclassification.”
I came to the exact opposite conclusion – if only psychiatric tests could be as rigourous as those Letby has gone through. Firstly, it should be acknowledged that personality disorders, psycho/sociopathology are amongst the hardest conditions to diagnose, not least because they are controversial even amongst the experts, and there are mutliple takes on the issues. However the following defintion might sit in the centre of a venn diagram on the matter:
psychopathy is characterised by features such as untruthfulness, manipulativeness, callousness, lack of remorse or shame, as well as impulsive and antisocial tendencies”
Even if the only evidence were the guilty verdict (repeatedly torturing and killing babies, calmly enough to get away with it, even though surrounded by parents and medical professionals), and assuming the conviction is sound, these criteria have been met, ‘ipso facto’.
Perhaps The key feature in socipathology is lack of empathy. This is likely to be the result of neuropsychological features, such as a lack of mirror neurons, which itself may be an effect ‘Warrior Gene’. Speculation, admitedly – but speculation of the soundest sort, especially in comparison to the author’s wooly take. To my mind, if there is not such an underlying, organic issue at the heart of Letby’s actions, then she must truly be a monster – and I dont believe in monsters, other than the Kodo dragon, and giant squid sort.

Mark V
Mark V
9 months ago

“we must naturally start with Sigmund Freud. Freud believed”
blahblah bolox
Is this a GCSE essay?

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
9 months ago

when i worked as a mental health counsellor 1990 thru 2005 it was considered essential to have regular individual and team supervision – and they were purposefully challenging so that no person got to evade being ‘present’. This practice was cut in 2000 (NZ) and by 2005 both the levels of skill and of competent staff numbers had dropped dramatically – as experienced practitioners left a now unsafe field. Mental health care in NZ is now floundering – and that can clearly be traced back to THE BEGINNING of top down corporate line management that completely disrespected front line staff feedback and alienated the very staff holding the skill and accumulated wisdom in favour of incompetent middle managers etc etc etc etc blah blah, same old story. Competent supervision is essential in any field of work involving suffering of any kind – and partially because some workers will ‘lose the plot’ and need to be supported, or moved into something less strenuous……

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
9 months ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Completely agree. When I was an examiner for final year physio technique exams back in the 90s, we had 5 examiners, all who had been around a while. If a student was good, but mucked up the exam, we passed them anyway. If the student was, in our eyes, a risky student, then even if they were ‘ok’ in the exam, we may have failed them. In this way, we thought we were helping the profession keep the standards up. We knew best. But then we got a diktat from management that we had to write long reports on our marking decisions, justifying each decision individually. The result? Experienced examiners quit, and the wrong kind of people started to pass the exams.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
9 months ago

There’s been a few comments about how Lucy may have been wrongly convicted. Let’s clear that up. The evidence against her is not just the ‘overlap’ of deaths with her attendance record. Although that’s bad enough, I’m sure that even the ‘Lucy may be innocent’ brigade would accept that if there had been 1000 deaths and Lucy was the only overlap, she would probably be the culprit. No, there were two other key bits of ‘data’ that proved her guilt. The first of these is the high rate of death, compared to the norm, of her neonatal unit. This is a separate piece of information from the overlap issue. The second is the unusual manner of death, given that most neonatal deaths are explainable. Add these three separate data points together, using typical Bayes methods, and it’s impossible to avoid a) closing the unit and b) suspending/arresting Letby. The fact that this wasn’t done shows how stupid doctors and managers are at interpreting basic statistics. Add in the eventual police investigation that found her diary entries and the probability that she’s innocent is the same as the probability that the Pope is a die-hard protestant – i.e. zero.

Last edited 9 months ago by Mangle Tangle
L F Buckland
L F Buckland
9 months ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

Babies weighing as little as a bag of sugar, have very little chance of survival, their lungs can’t expand (reference the ‘surfactant’ needed to allow adhesive surfaces to move freely); of those seriously ‘pre-term’ (as were all the babies identified in the charges) the risks are so considerable that any neo-natal ward is acutely vulnerable. The recorded figures for this Ward are consistent with those of previous years: tiny babies do die.
objectively, questions can fairly be asked about the lack of scientific evidence, samples not taken from dead babies by doctors who say they were already suspicious yet did not provide evidence, or involve the Coroner. Pre-existing conditions among the mothers; infections.
in a hospital known to be short-staffed and in poor conditions, there should, surely, have been far more serious questions asked. Consultants available but not called; junior doctors struggling to insert tubes (& misplacing some of them); look at the KNOWN shortcomings, and consider what other questions require answers.

Marjaleena Repo
Marjaleena Repo
9 months ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

Your gullibility of the “official line” is overwhelming. Go straight to Norman Fenton’s interview of Phil McLachlan and experience critical thinking entering our mind. With that new perspective, join in the effort to free Lucy Letby from her wrongful conviction.

William Simonds
William Simonds
9 months ago

The title of this article: Lucy Letby Isn’t a Psychopath
Fact: (CNN) Authorities found notes Letby had written during searches of her address. “…I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them,”
Dr. Freestone’s definition of a psychopath is far, far different from mine…apparently.

David Hewett
David Hewett
9 months ago

You do not appear to be aware of the 20 characteristics that make up the inventory used to score psychopathy. He does. However that is only a label, which in this case doesn’t take us very far in understanding her motivations.

Brian Q M
Brian Q M
9 months ago

This doesn’t ring true to me. According to Panorama and other reports, this nurse seemed to be surprisingly normal, without any traditional outward signs of psychopathic tendencies. So I buy the “not a psycopath” verdict. But I don’t buy the “frustrated healer” angle saying she killed some of her patients because she seemingly couldn’t save them – when, of course she could have done. She also didn’t appear to have a “God complex”, enjoying the choice of who to kill, which other medical serial killers seem to have done. So I don’t see a clear concensus on this one at all.

Last edited 9 months ago by Brian Q M
Rohan Moore
Rohan Moore
9 months ago

Now we’ve had the pseudoscientific claptrap, why not add the theological account of Letby’s motivations?

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Rohan Moore

Hah! Perhaps she carried over bad karma from a previous life, or rather the victims had. Or her father’s sin was visited upon her. Or the old classic – she had a pact with the devil!

harry storm
harry storm
9 months ago

RE: Confronted repeatedly with suffering and loss in a world she so fervently believed she belonged, her drive to sustain life became perverted into a drive to inflict death. Only in this way could she feel that her identity, her power — that instinct to care which, in others, kept her alive and then gave her a reason to exist — could be sustained.
This is pure BS. It’s nothing more than an evidence-free theory. Even calling Letby a monster comes closer to the truth than this nonsense.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
9 months ago

Reminds me of Hercule Poirot revealing the true motives of the murderer at the end of an Agatha Christie novel

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago

Ha ha ha!

Richard Huw Morris
Richard Huw Morris
9 months ago

There is I believe a very real possibility that the Lucy Letby case will go for appeal and she may be found not guilty as the whole trial was a sham. Anyone who is prepared to take the time and gain access to the trial transcripts will soon realise that she has not had a fair trial and a woefully inadequate defence.

L F Buckland
L F Buckland
9 months ago

Do we know the details of her defence team? I’ve only been able to find that one witness (a plumber) was called in her defence. This can’t be true, surely?

Madas A. Hatter
Madas A. Hatter
9 months ago

Unherd should simply not have published this. A tortuous, cerebral analysis twisted into shape to advance the writer’s journey on his peculiar hobby-horse.
No.

Marjaleena Repo
Marjaleena Repo
9 months ago

Quite shocking to read another character assassinating article with 104 comments so far, and not one (that I could find) suggesting that Lucy Letby is actually innocent and her trial and conviction to life in an UK prison a gross miscarriage of justice. To me, as a Canadian, her trial, conviction and non-stop abuse in the British media is a mirror image to the false charges for baby murder of pediatric nurse Susan Nelles in the early and mid-80s. (Hers had a happier conclusion: not convicted at the end of hear 8-month preliminary hearing because the evidence against her was merely circumstancial— as is the case with Lucy Letby —she was eventually able to successfully sue the Ontario government for malicious prosecution, something I wish and look forward for Lucy Letby as well). As a Canadian I am also starkly reminded of the case of David Milgaard, post-prison a personal friend of mine, who as a teenager was convicted of the rape and murder of a young nursing student, and spent 23 years in a prison for a crime he did not commit, eventually cleared by science, as I strongly believe Letby will be as well in her appeal or new trial if science can be introduced to her case from which it has been sorely and dangerously missing so far. The notorious Toronto Sick Kids case with Susan Nelles as the main suspect (with another nurse, Phyllis Trayner, casually thrown in, character assassinated in the media but not charged in the courts) has been analyzed for its scientific fallacies by Dr. Gavin Hamilton in his book, The Nurses Are Innocent: The Digoxin Poisoning Fallacy (Dundurn, 2011). Turns out that the culprit in the Sick Kids baby death was not the suspected digoxin and nurses at all but likely 2-MBT, a substance that exists in all things that contain rubber, such as syringes, a fact that has been known since 1981 and suspected for decades before that, but not acted upon by hospitals and other institutions where MTB was causing health hazards to people, particularly the most vulnerable ones. There is already in motion in the UK (with an international component) a scientific assessment of the evidence used against Lucy Letby, the Science on Trial, and I definitely wish that UnHerd readers become familiar with it in a hurry, before the UnHerd becomes merely a Herd of believers, not questioners. You can start with Norman Fenton’s interview with Scott McLachlan.

allan plaskett
allan plaskett
9 months ago

Much concern has been expressed about the quality of the evidence against Lucy Letby. Prof Fenton’s interest was piqued (his word) by the chart produced as prosecution evidence showing Letby on duty when 8 of 17 babies died. But similar charts could be produced for other nurses, and other babies died at Countess of Chester hospital while Letby was employed but not on duty. The deaths actually peaked after she had left. An average of 2 or 3 neonates per year would die on the ward in question, where prematurity averaged 7 weeks, going as high as 12 weeks. In 2015-16, 31 babies died over the 2 years. Staff were often looking after 2 or 3 neonates, instead of the preferred number of 1. The prosecution at first charged Letby with involvement in 8, but cut the number to 7 on the judge’s orders before the trial began. But how many other nurses, or doctors, could have been implicated by the same sort of chart? 31 neonate deaths and Lucy’s name appeared in the ‘nurse’ column for 8 of them. No nurse (or doctor) scored higher. But why was the nurse who matched with 3 of the first 4 deaths not investigated further? Deaths peaked in 2018-19, when Lucy had left Countess of Chester. Were junior doctors (who seemed to have the run of the place) at fault for not complying with instructions that multiple attempts to insert umbilical catheters should not be made before summoning senior staff? Such attempts were made on many of the babies who died. What about the quality of other evidence? Dr Evans had not worked on neonatal for 15 years, and has the look of a professional witness. He drove to offer his services, pitching for business, to the Chester police as a witness. His tax returns show considerable income from the Letby case. He presented as an expert, was accepted by the court as an expert, but was he? Ben Myers KC, Lucy’s defence counsel, appears to have had his hands tied. Why didn’t he ask about the two thirds of the 31 babies who died but weren’t linked to Lucy? A plumber (the only witness presented on Lucy’s behalf) gave evidence that he was called in on a weekly basis to deal with leaky pipes in the ceilings over the babies’ cots. The neonatal staff had once to walk through mixed overflow from toilets and showers (effectively sewage) on the floors. Lucy is accused of injecting the babies with air, but no one saw her do this. Air accumulated in the abdomens of the dead babies, but pathogens possibly from the overflow and leaks could have caused that. What was the most convincing evidence against Lucy for the 7 murders and 6 attempted murders? Nothing direct at all. No one saw her do anything. No incriminating instruments or materials were adduced. The police did find 100-days-worth of handover-sheets at Lucy’s home, implying she amassed them as evil trophies. But it is common for nurses to retain these privately. They presented quotes from Lucy’s reflective journal (‘I must have killed them.’ ‘I am evil!’) as confessional and self-incriminating, when a wider in-context reading might have seen them as soul-searching and self-castigating. If details were not pre-disclosed to Lucy’s counsel of the babies she was not involved with, including those who died after she left, might that be grounds for appeal in itself?

Last edited 9 months ago by allan plaskett
L F Buckland
L F Buckland
9 months ago
Reply to  allan plaskett

Thank you for putting these points forward.
There *are* questions, and those questions should be addressed by the Statutory Enquiry – too many remain unasked, let alone answered, at this point.

allan plaskett
allan plaskett
9 months ago

Lucy Letby will be acquitted on appeal. (See my earlier post if you wonder why.) Attention will then turn to filth, incompetence and neglect, and to how Lucy Letby was convicted on no direct evidence.

Last edited 9 months ago by allan plaskett
Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
9 months ago

I’d be more likely to believe that Letby relished the secret she had. If in the eyes of others she was an unassuming little nobody she could savor her real power of life and death, while others were none the wiser. But why was it that she recognized her own evil? Did she hate herself? She was walking a razor’s edge everyday – risking the possibility of being discovered. Did she want to be discovered, punished?

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
9 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Warrior

Pointless speculation

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
9 months ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

Interesting pointless speculation.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
9 months ago

Almost as alarming as the case is the public response. Seems we aren’t as far removed from the stocks or public hanging in the medieval square as we may have thought. An immediately empathetic response is natural, with which comes anger, but I would have thought an understanding of motives would be an accompanying priority for the more seriously empathetic. Evidently a mirage. “Vengeance is mine,” sayeth Blog. So what are left with is “Some people are evil.” Great. Ok.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
9 months ago

Why can’t we just accept that some people are just born evil? Experts try & explain it away by they are suffering from a poor childhood or a bad experience but other people with the same experiences don’t kill once let alone multiple times. Evil exists in the world. How many times do we need to have it proved? Was Letby’s actions any worse than those who were told of concerns but chose to ignore it because of their ridiculous reluctance to accept the truth? Both are guilty. Live with knowledge of evil or die because of it.

L F Buckland
L F Buckland
9 months ago

Would the jury have reached the same verdict about #LucyLetby if they had access to ALL all evidence? 
How can a jury of 12 (or 11) lay people reach a fair verdict on a case of such complexity despite the number of investigations and reviews conducted between 2016 and 2017 by appropriately qualified and independent professionals concluded otherwise? 
Here is part of the RCPCH review on the #LucyLetby matter. 
The statement literally says: “There were apparently no issues of competency or training, she was very professional and asked relevant questions, demonstrating an enthusiasm to learn along with a high level of professionalism.”
Redacted Passages:
“The neonatal lead [Stephen Brearey], in an effort to be thorough and explore all possibilities had identified that one nurse had been rostered on shift for all the deaths although the nurse had not always been assigned to care for that specific infant.”
Subsequently, the paediatric lead and all the consultant pediatricians became convinced by the link. Although this was a subjective view with no other evidence or reports of clinical concerns about the nurse beyond this simple correlation an allegation was made to the Medical Director and Director of Nursing.
On arriving for the visit the RCPCH Review team was told that the nurse had been moved to an alternative position around ten weeks previously without explanation nor any formal investigative process having been established. The Review team was told that the individual was an enthusiastic, capable and committed nurse who had worked on the unit for four years. 
She herself explained to the Review team that she was passionate about her career and keen to progress. She regularly volunteered to work extra shifts or change her shifts when asked to do so and was happy to work with her friends on the unit. 
The Directors understood there was nothing about her background that was suspicious; her nursing colleagues on the unit were reported to think highly of her and how she responded to emergencies and other difficult situations, especially when the transport team were involved. There were apparently no issues of competency or training, she was very professional and asked relevant questions, demonstrating an enthusiasm to lead along with a high level of professionalism.”
(Source: ITV News)

#Iustitia

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
9 months ago

I watched a German movie many years ago that I believe was based on a real incident. A man in his thirties who is portrayed up till that point as a disaffected loner who minds his own business and seems to be missing the “empathy gene” happens to be passing over a bridge one day when he sees a young woman among swimmers who is drowning. He reflexively jumps into the water and swims out and saves her, but then refuses to stay around and be thanked. Days and then weeks go by and he becomes to the viewer increasingly unsettled. Finally, he goes about constructing an elaborate plot to kill someone by burying them in a box crypt deep in the ground which has an air pipe to the surface so they wont be dying of suffocation. He goes by car to another popular recreation lake, selects a woman his own age whom he charms into helping him with the aid of a fake arm cast he made (one of Ted Bundy’s successful tricks), he chloroforms her and she wakes up down in the crypt listening to him explain that shes way out in the country were there’s nobody for miles to hear what little noise she could make through the tube. He leaves with a look finally as if everything is now right with the world once again. It was awful. Wish I’d never seen it. But it came to mind while reading about this woman.
Edit: took me awhile but I found the name of that movie. 1988. Not based on true story. Dutch movie. Significant details totally wrong. Still something essential remains of my connection with this article. Another lesson in not relying on memory. Here’s a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vanishing_(1988_film)

Last edited 9 months ago by Jeff Cunningham
Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
9 months ago

Such a very sensible and compelling presentation, serving also as a call to action, versus what we see in media at large. Which as Mark says, makes no sense. And yet beneath the relatively transactional motives, always, lies the one catastrophic failure, which is a total failure of imagination. The imagination to see others as being as real as the self.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew Boughton
Gilmour Campbell
Gilmour Campbell
9 months ago

What a load of speculative nonsense. We will never know because she will not tell us, and whatever she may say in the future we will never know if it is the truth.What she did is what we call ‘bad’ and not compatible with the kind of society in which we want to live. The reasons (which, as I said we will never know) are irrelevant.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago

Freud was a fraud just like Jesus, it runs in the genes.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
9 months ago

Embarrassing attempt by the Unherd editors in the sub-headline for this article to make Letby an NHS issue – not supported by anything in the piece itself. Pretty shameful.

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
9 months ago

Yeah, they do have some good content, still (hence both of us here, reading, I guess 😉 – but there is a troll-y, sensationalist (often to the point of obfuscating/undermining the article itself) tone to quite a lot of the headlines in particular I don’t really appreciate. As well as too much emphasis on well-worn elsewhere anti-woke hot takes that, above all else, are pretty boring. This particular article is more to my first point, than the second. Just musing. What I initially liked about their content during Covid was that it covered what were controversial topics in a non-sensational, more thoughtful way. As someone who was not supportive of the response to Covid in general, but didn’t appreciate the more truly out there takes on that side of things – I really appreciated that, it was really hard to find. I find a lot of their more recent coverage on other topics lacks that higher standard of consideration.

David Morley
David Morley
9 months ago

My god, I’ve upvoted you. Never thought that would happen!