A nurse at a Greater Manchester hospital has been found guilty of murdering two patients in his care and poisoning 19 others.
Nurse Victorino Chua, who worked at Stockport Foundation Trust’s Stepping Hill Hospital, was charged with murdering three people and harming 18 others by poisoning them with ampoules and saline drips contaminated with insulin in 2011.
According to media reports, the 49-year-old has been convicted of murdering Derek Weaver and Tracey Arden but cleared of murdering Arnold Lancaster.
Mr Chua, pleaded not guilty to 36 charges including three counts of murder throughout the trial which took place at Manchester Crown Court.
“Today’s verdict provides some closure to me and the other families involved in this process”
Patient Zubia Aslam
Mr Chua, originally from the Philippines, was first arrested in January 2012 and was later released on bail.
He appeared in a court hearing early last year accused of offences including the murders of Ms Arden, 44, Mr Lancaster, 71 and Mr Weaver, 83, as well as grievous bodily harm with intent, 22 counts of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, and further charges of attempting to administer poison.
All the offences spanned a six-month period between 1 June, 2011 and 3 January, 2012.
He then appeared at Manchester Crown Court in January 2015, but the jury was discharged after one of the jurors suffered family problems.
The trial began again later in January, lasting three months before the jury delivered its verdict today after deliberating for 11 days.
Families of victims and those who survived the poisoning have spoken of their relief at the verdict but have questioned whether measures are in place to ensure the incident is not repeated at the trust in the future.
In a statement, the family of patient Mary Cartwright who died following treatment at Stepping Hill Hospital during which time she received a contaminated saline drip, claimed the trust had failed to carry out adequate background checks on Mr Chua.
“We do feel that Stepping Hill Hospital let us and all the other families affected down and did not carry out the duty of care which is expected by patients and their relatives,” said the statement.
“The background checks where obviously inadequate in relation to this particular employee and the continued monitoring of the staff and daily procedures were not up to acceptable standards,” it added.
Zubia Aslam, who survived her saline drip being contaminated at the hospital, said: “Today’s verdict provides some closure to me and the other families involved in this process. At least someone has been brought to justice and it gives a little peace of mind.”
She added: “I still have questions about how this was allowed to happen in the first place. What measures have been taken to date and will be taken going forward to ensure that this never happens again?”
Both have on-going legal cases against Stockport Foundation Trust.
The trust’s chief executive Ann Barnes described the crimes committed by Mr Chua as “shocking” and “appalling”.
She described him an “extremely dangerous criminal” and said that staff cooperation was partly to thank for him being brought to justice.
Ms Barnes said the trust’s storage of saline and management of prescription charts at the time of the incident was “typical” of those in other hospitals across the country.
She said: “Whilst no hospital’s systems and processes can offer a complete guarantee against the actions of a determined criminal, additional measures are now in place which go beyond standard practice.
“These put our organisation at the forefront of best practice in this field and include CCTV in all ward treatment and drug storage rooms, electronic prescribing and an enhanced system for locking treatment rooms and storing insulin.”