How The Tabloids Monstered Rebecca Leighton Over The Stepping Hill Hospital Deaths
REBECCA Leighton is free. The nurse was arrested suspicion of murder in July. Her arrest followed the deaths of two men and a woman at Stockport’s Stepping Hill Hospital. The theory was that insulin was deliberately injected into 36 saline containers.
She was convicted of no crime. Still, the Mirror said she was being held by “saline serial killer cops”.
Who knew that the police had an entire division devoted to saline serial killers? The Times and Telegraph led with photos of Leighton taken from her Facebook page. No, not shots of the nurse looking starched and orderly but photos of her looking zany and bit waahaaay on nights out with mates.
The Mail wanted its readers to play armchair detective – why should saline serial killer cops get all the fun? It’s front page asked:
“DID THIS NURSE MURDER THREE PATIENTS?”
Beneath a photo of faces, the Mail wrote:
Victims: Tracey Arden, 44, George Keep, 84, and Arnold Lancaster, 71, who died at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport
Victims of what? Stress? On her Facebook page, Leighton wrote that she was “shattered”. And:
“God it [sic] hard work x”.
July 4: “Really really don’t want to go to work
Over in the Mail, that became:
Rebecca Leighton’s Facebook pages tell of a frantic social life that helped her cope with the stress of work.
She did write:
“Worst night’s sleep ever last nite, now for 14 hr shift aggghhhhhhh”
In another post she wrote: ‘Bad bad day follow(ed) by wine is a must.’
This becomes the Mail’s:
Wine lover: Rebecca Leighton wrote of her love of partying and was often seen at her local corner shop buying rose wine and cigarettes
The Mail kept hammering at her. It had seen her Facebook page:
In one picture, Leighton is seen downing a bottle of wine.
Can you see someone down an entire bottle of wine in a single photo? No. You can see them looking as if they are drinking wine. The rest is guess work designed to create an impression of the innocent nurse.
Were there any witnesses to her behaviour?
At a convenience store near her Stockport home, proprietor Hamid Bayatpoor, 47, said: “She comes in all the time in her nurse’s uniform and buys wine and cigarettes – Echo Falls rosé and packets of 20 or 40 Mayfair.”
“At the weekend she comes in all dressed up, wearing a party dress.”
“She’s a very nice girl, always laughing and smiling – I’m very surprised she’s been arrested.”
Such were the facts as the news media set about creating panic and monstering Leighton:
The front page-headlines were scary:
“HOW MANY MORE POISON VICTIMS?” – Daily Mail
“WERE 14 PATIENTS POISONED IN HOSPITAL?” – Daily Mirror
“NOW THERE’S 5 DEAD” – Sun
The Sun embarked on a flight of fancy as it enters the “Town of fear”:
THE mood was as dark as the clouds swirling around the town’s famous hat museum yesterday. There was little talk of anything else in Stockport but that a serial killer may be in the locals’ midst.
An expert served up a dish of cold obvious:
Sick patients are such easy prey. A sick hospital patient, who expects to feel ill and may not spot signs such as feeling faint or confused, is an easy victim.
And then it got more sinister. Innocent Leighton was linked to a convicted serial killer:
It emerged yesterday that the saline serial killer may have murdered more victims than Angel of Death Beverley Allitt. Nurse Allitt, now 42, was given life 18 years ago for murdering four children and injuring nine others in a spree that shocked the nation.
Today Rebecca Leighton’s solicitor Carl Richmond addressed media on her behalf:
“First and foremost I would wish to thank with all my heart all of those people who have supported me and have not given up on me and never doubted my innocence during this living nightmare. If it was not for the unerring love and support of my family, my mum Lynda, dad David and brother Darren, my fiance Tim, and all my friends, I do not know how I would have coped.
“I would also like to thank the members of the public who have also supported me and have believed in my innocence. I have been living in hell and was locked up in prison for something I had not done. Nonetheless, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the staff at HMP Styal for their love and support.
“It was so frustrating for me knowing that the person who has actually carried out these terrible acts is still out there. My life has been turned upside down. All I ever wanted to do was to pursue a profession in nursing and to care for my patients.
“I think it is unbelievable that anyone in the medical profession would ever put patients’ lives at risk. Finally I would like to thank my legal team, Mr Simon Csoka QC and Carl Richmond from Middleweeks Solicitors for their constant hard work in preparing my case. Their support was invaluable.
“I will not be speaking to the media tonight. I would ask that you all respect the right of my family and myself to privacy and allow us to get on with our lives. I have nothing else to say at this stage.”
She may like to consult a libel lawyer…
As for the case, Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney of Greater Manchester Police says:
‘This is one of the most challenging and complex investigations we have faced.
‘We have to work within a crime scene which is a very busy hospital where staff, visitors and patients have some degree of access to products within the hospital.Officers have interviewed 200 out of 700 people they want to speak to. Their list includes hospital staff, patients and visitors… All these people who came into the contact of the hospital were particularly poorly people so we have to understand the impact of contamination, although we are clear there was contamination in a number of saline products.”
In short: we have no idea…