Killer nurse Beverly Allitt, who was sentenced in 1993 to 13 life sentences for murdering and attacking children, today had her minimum term fixed at 28 years and 175 days by a judge in the High Court in the UK.
Mr Justice Stanley Burton, sitting in London, said the least Allitt should serve was 30 years – less the one year and 190 days spent in custody before sentence – which was the same term previously recommended by the trial judge and the then Lord Chief Justice.
Families of two of her victims were in court for the ruling.
The judge said: “By her actions, what should have been a place of safety for its patients became not just a place of danger, but if not a killing field something close to it.”
The only mitigation was her mental health.
The judge said: ``I have to say that I regard the determination of the minimum period in a case such as the present - and fortunately cases as extreme as this are rare - as a very difficult task.
“Once it is accepted that the offender was suffering from mental disorder, difficult ethical and indeed philosophical questions arise as to the degree to which responsibility for the offences in question should be regarded as diminished.
“I have found that there is an element of sadism in Ms Allitt’s conduct and her offending.”
He added: “But that sadism is itself, if not the result, certainly a manifestation of her mental disorder, and it would be unduly simplistic to treat it in the same way as one would if the offender were mentally well.”
It was in May 1993 that Allitt, a state enrolled nurse, then aged 31, was found guilty of the murder of four young children, of the attempted murder of a further three children, and of causing grievous bodily harm with intent on a further six children.
All of the victims had been in her care in the paediatric ward of the Grantham and Kesteven General Hospital.
Joanne and Chris Taylor, the parents of Allitt's first victim, seven-week-old Liam Taylor, were in court.
Liam, who was admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties, had a number of unexpected collapses, at all of which Allitt was present alone.
The prosecution evidence was that it was impossible to determine the precise cause of his February 1991 death – whether it was the result of suffocation or the injection of a drug.
Mrs Taylor, of Grantham, Lincolnshire, said she was pleased that the judge’s thoughts were with all the children.
“That’s what we are here for – not just my child. He couldn’t have done any more. He’s done the best he can.”
She said the judge’s reference to Allitt’s sadism had stuck in her mind.
“That’s what we all felt at the time. There’s a fine line between evil and illness, and I’ll never forget him saying that word today.”
David Peck, of Newark, Nottinghamshire, the father of 15-month-old Claire who died in March 1991, said: “I’m absolutely delighted with the outcome – and pleased for the other families as well.
“We can now put this behind us after 15 years. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Claire, who suffered from asthma, was admitted to hospital and collapsed when Allitt was alone with her.
Allitt was convicted of her murder after the jury heard prosecution evidence that the toddler had been injected with potassium and lignocaine.