Murder-accused nurse 'a scapegoat'
A "killer" nurse accused of murdering and poisoning patients is an innocent man being used as a "scapegoat", a court has heard.
Victorino Chua, 49, was left to "carry the can" after the police poured "huge" resources into finding the killer poisoning patients at "random" at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport.
Father-of-two Chua also allegedly deliberately altered the dosages on prescription charts while working as a staff nurse on wards A1 and A3.
In all, 21 patients suffered as a result of his "handiwork" with three of them murdered - Tracey Arden, 44, Arnold Lancaster, 71, and Derek Weaver, 83 - jurors were told.
But his lawyer, Peter Griffiths QC, said the case against Chua, a Filipino who had worked at the hospital since 2009, was "circumstantial" and he denied all 36 charges "from first to last", Manchester Crown Court heard.
Mr Griffiths told the jury that the trial judge Mr Justice Openshaw had allowed him to take the "quite exceptional" step of addressing the jury before any evidence had been called, to allow him to point out the "real issues" in the case.
Mr Griffiths said: "My client denies these allegations.
"I will be using the term 'scapegoat' later.
"Members of the jury we have no idea who has committed some poisonings and some alterations.
"Who did is a matter of conjecture.
"This case against my client is circumstantial.
"Effectively what we are saying here is that the defendant, Victorino Chua, he has been plucked out of a huge number of potential people, the prosecution put huge resources investigating what happened at Stepping Hill Hospital, vast number of officers.
"Could they end up at the end of the day with, 'I don't know who did it'?
"Somebody at the end of the day has to carry the can.
"The defence say, when you look at it, this man is a scapegoat."
Chua is alleged to have contaminated saline bags and ampoules with insulin using a hypodermic needle in June and July of 2011.
These were then left by him to be used by unsuspecting doctors and nurses.
For patients it was a random "lottery" who was treated with the poisoned saline drips, the jury were told.
Insulin causes the body's blood sugar level to drop dangerously low, known as a hypoglacemic episode, and the prosecution said it led to the deaths of three patients, and brain damage in another.
In all, 21 patients were poisoned by Chua, it is alleged.
But Mr Griffiths said the defence would call evidence from medical experts - "the best we can find in the field" - who will tell them that in 15 of those cases they will not be able to reach the legal threshold to convict the defendant, that they are sure beyond reasonable doubt, that insulin poisoning and not natural causes caused the hypoglycemic episodes.
In the remaining six poisoned patients, Mr Griffiths told the jury after hearing both prosecution and defence experts, they would "probably" be able to be sure the hypoglycemic episodes were caused by insulin poisoning but that Chua was not the poisoner.
And in the case of the three alleged murders, Mr Griffiths said the defence did not accept that the hypoglycemic episodes suffered by them were linked to their deaths, and there were other "sound, compelling reasons" for the loss of life in those cases.
After the poisonings in the summer of 2011 were discovered, security was increased and six months later Chua is alleged to have changed tack, administering poison by altering the dosages on the prescription charts of seven patients.
Chua accepted alterations were made but he was not responsible, Mr Griffiths said - no-one saw it happen and "many others" had the opportunity on the "immensely busy" hospital wards concerned.
Mr Griffiths said the prosecution was trying to link the poisonings and the alterations but suggested there was no link.
"If it's not the same person, it's almost like a ship that's been holed," he added.
Chua has pleaded not guilty to 36 charges, including three alleged murders, one count of grievous bodily harm with intent, 23 counts of attempted grievous bodily harm, eight counts of attempting to cause a poison to be administered and one count of administering a poison.
Mr Griffiths added: "The defendant denies he was the perpetrator of any of these incidents.
"He had the misfortune of being on duty in January 2012 when various alterations were found to have been carried out ... so the finger of suspicion goes on to him.
"He gets arrested, he's literally on bail for a couple of years.
"Then they decide to charge him and he ends up here.
"When you analyse matters very, very carefully, you will see the prosecution are nowhere near proving that my client is guilty of these charges."
The trial, expected to last up to four months, continues.