A nurse at a Greater Manchester hospital has been handed a life sentence after being 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.
The 49-year-old was yesterday convicted of murdering Derek Weaver and Tracey Arden but cleared of murdering Arnold Lancaster.
Today, he was told by a judge that he would spend a minimum of 35 years in prison for his crimes.
Mr Chua, pleaded not guilty to 36 charges including three counts of murder throughout the three-month trial which took place at Manchester Crown Court.
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 asked whether measures are in place to ensure the incident is not repeated at the trust in the future.
Questions have also been raised over whether Mr Chua’s nursing qualifications, obtained in the Philippines, were genuine and if subsequent checks by the Nursing and Midwifery Council were sufficient.
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.
“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 said.
The trust’s chief executive Ann Barnes described the crimes committed by Mr Chua as “shocking” and “appalling”, but said NHS employers relied on the NMC for checks.
The nursing regulator has said it found no evidence that Mr Chua’s qulaifications were fraudulent and that it had tightened its processes since he joined the UK register in 2002.
Another nurse, Rebecca Leighton, had initially been wrongly arrested in relation to the deaths. She spent six weeks in prison on remand before the case against her was droped and she was released.