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'Evil angel' nurse guilty of murder

Published 18/05/2015

A sign at the entrance to Stepping Hill hospital in Stockport
A sign at the entrance to Stepping Hill hospital in Stockport

Killer Victorino Chua was described as a narcissistic psychopath by detectives as the "angel turned evil" hospital nurse was convicted of murdering and poisoning patients.

Filipino Chua, 49, injected insulin into saline bags and ampoules while working on two wards at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport in June and July 2011.

These were then unwittingly used by other nurses on the ward - leading to a series of insulin overdoses to mainly elderly victims.

Chaos and panic followed in his wake with 21 poisoned patients suffering sudden illness that left hospital staff in turmoil and police on the brink of closing the hospital for the sake of patient safety.

Two patients, Tracey Arden, 44 and Alfred Weaver, 83, suffered agonising deaths and a third, Grant Misell, 41, was left brain damaged as the insulin overdoses starved the victims' brains of oxygen.

He was cleared of a third murder, of Arnold Lancaster, 71, but found guilty of attempting to cause him grievous bodily harm.

In all, Chua was convicted of two murders, 22 counts of attempted grievous bodily harm, one count of grievous bodily harm, seven attempts of administering poison and one count of administering poison.

He will be sentenced tomorrow in the presence of some of his victims' loved ones and faces a mandatory two life sentences for the murders.

Chua, a father-of-two, stood in silence, only blinking as the foreman of the jury, after deliberating for 11 days, delivered guilty verdicts following the trial lasting four months at Manchester Crown Court.

Chua, first arrested in January 2012, has shown "a complete lack of remorse" throughout, said Detective Superintendent Simon Barraclough, who led the investigation for Greater Manchester Police (GMP).

"He has a number of different sides to him, some of the people who have worked with him at Stepping Hill have described him as a caring very professional nurse," Det Supt Barraclough said.

"And I believe some of the people who have worked with him have found the true side of him and he's a particularly vindictive, nasty individual.

"Whenever his ego was challenged, whenever his importance was challenged in his own mind that was when he reacted and that was when he hurt patients or at least tried to hurt patients in some of the cases.

"Chua has demonstrated clear narcissistic and psychopathic tendencies and such indiscriminate poisoning is testament to that.

"He clearly had no regard for his patients and did not give a second thought as to who would be injured or the devastation this would cause them and their families."

Among the evidence produced by the prosecution was a self-penned letter found at Chua's home in Stockport after his arrest.

In the letter, described as "the bitter nurse confession" by Chua, he said he was "an angel turned into an evil person" and "there's a devil in me". He also wrote of having things he would "take to the grave".

Murder victim Ms Arden, who had multiple sclerosis, was admitted for a "mild" chest infection and would have expected to "sail through this storm". But she was pronounced dead eight hours after admission after being treated with a saline ampoule contaminated with insulin.

Mr Weaver was admitted with a chest infection and, after being given a saline drip, he "appeared to be in agony, eyes rolling back in his head". He died 10 days later.

In June and July 2011 a growing feeling of unease and "something not right" overtook medics after one patient after another suddenly began falling inexplicably ill on Chua's wards at Stepping Hill Hospital.

On the nightshift of July 10/11, five patients had unexpected hypoglycaemic attacks, a naturally rare event, which suddenly became "alarmingly common".

A similar pattern followed of "rollercoaster" blood sugar levels for the poisoned patients, who soon rallied after being given glucose sugar infusions, only before they relapsed again from the insulin, unknown to medics, still in their drips.

Many patients went "full circle" and recovered, but three died, two of them as a direct result of the poisoning, the jury ruled with their murder verdicts.

After police were called in, Chua "changed tack" by sabotaging prescription charts, doubling and trebling dosages - some with potentially lethal consequences - leading to his arrest in January 2012.

Police had launched Operation Roxburg, a multimillion-pound three-and-a-half-year police investigation, one of the biggest and most complex launched by GMP, involving 7,700 police actions, 659 witnesses, a 28,100-page prosecution file and 16,000 items of unused evidence material.

Detectives initially arrested and charged another nurse, Rebecca Leighton, before she was eventually ruled out and the trail led to Chua.

Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), paid tribute to an "amazing piece of detective work" by his officers in a case he described as a "classic whodunnit".

Ben Southam, from the CPS North West Complex Casework Unit, said: "The only possible conclusion from all the evidence is that Victorino Chua, trusted as a nurse to care for sick patients at the hospital, was the person responsible for harming and, in two cases, for killing them.

"Above all our thoughts and sympathies go out to all the victims and their families at this time."

Ann Barnes, chief executive of Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Stepping Hill Hospital, said: "These were shocking and appalling crimes that took place when the patients should have been receiving nothing but the highest quality care."

Chua was cleared of one count of murder, one count of manslaughter and one count of attempting to administer poison.

He will be sentenced tomorrow morning by trial judge, Mr Justice Openshaw.

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