A nurse accused of murdering and poisoning hospital patients has made his first Crown Court appearance.
Victorino Chua, 48, appeared at Manchester Crown Court by video-link, accused of 34 offences in total, including three counts of murder and 31 other serious charges.
The court heard that the case involves the alleged poisonings of 21 patients at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, where Mr Chua worked.
The Filipino, wearing a grey sweatshirt, replied “Yes sir” to confirm his name and at times raised his hand and pointed to his ear to indicate that he was having trouble hearing proceedings over the link from the court.
The father-of-two is currently being held in the Category A section of HMP Manchester.
A trial date of January next year was proposed by the court and Mr Chua was remanded into custody until 14 April, when his lawyers will apply for bail.
Mr Chua, of Churchill Street, Stockport, was first arrested in January 2012 and had been on bail for more than two years until he was arrested and charged last Friday. He appeared at Manchester Magistrates’ Court on Saturday morning and the case was sent to the higher court for the latest hearing.
Rachel Smith, prosecuting, told the court: “The defendant has been charged with three murders and a large number of other serious offences arising out of the investigation into the poisonings of patients at Stepping Hill Hospital in 2011, and further offences relating to patient records in 2012.
“This is a case of multiple complexity,” she added.
The 34 offences Mr Chua is alleged to have committed include the murders of Tracey Arden, 44, Arnold Lancaster, 71 and Derek Weaver, 83.
In addition there is one charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent, 22 counts of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, seven charges of attempting to administer poison and one count of causing poison to be administered with intent.
All the alleged offences span a six-month period between 1 June, 2011 and 3 January, 2012.
Peter Griffiths QC, representing Chua, told the court that, given the complexity of the case, it was “inconceivable” that the defence case would be ready by September. Therefore a date of January next year has been proposed for the trial, before a senior High Court judge.
“The trial is likely to take place at the beginning of January next year”
A directions hearing was fixed for 16 May and a plea and case management hearing set for 4 July.
At the close of the hearing, judge David Stockdale QC, Recorder of Manchester, told the defendant: “Mr Chua, this has been a preliminary hearing.
“I have set a timetable for various steps to be taken as both prosecution and defence prepare for trial,” he said.
“The trial is likely to take place at the beginning of January next year. That concludes this hearing.”
Chua will next appear in court for his bail hearing on April 14.