Manchester

Stepping Hill Hospital: Rebecca Leighton remanded in custody

An artist's image of Rebecca Leighton in the dock
Image caption Rebecca Leighton (centre) is accused of tampering with medical products

A nurse has been remanded in custody after the deaths of five patients at a Stockport hospital.

Rebecca Leighton is charged with three counts of criminal damage with intent to endanger life following the deaths at Stepping Hill Hospital.

The 27-year-old is also accused of three counts of criminal damage being reckless as to whether life was being endangered, and one of theft.

She appeared for a brief hearing at Manchester City Magistrates' Court.

No application for bail was made on Ms Leighton's behalf as chairman of the bench, Ian MacNeill, remanded her in custody.

She will next appear at Manchester Crown Court on 1 August.

Ms Leighton is alleged to have tampered with medical products, saline ampoules and saline bags.

Man critically ill

Police said saline solution at the hospital had been contaminated with insulin, which can cause low blood sugar levels.

Ms Leighton was arrested on Wednesday by police investigating the deaths of Tracey Arden, 44, Arnold Lancaster, 71, and 84-year-old George Keep.

On Thursday, police announced the death of two other patients - Derek Weaver, 83, and Vera Pearson, 84 - were also being investigated as part of their inquiry.

Image caption A 41-year-old man remains in a critical condition

Mr Weaver, from Stockport, died on Thursday after suffering a hypoglycaemic episode on 11 July - a day after he was admitted from a care home with breathing problems.

Ms Arden, of Heaviley, who had multiple sclerosis, died on 7 July and retired photographer Mr Lancaster, of Romiley, died on 11 July.

Mr Keep, of Cheadle, died on 14 July after being admitted to the hospital with a broken hip, while on the same day Mrs Pearson also died.

A 41-year-old man remains critically ill in hospital.

Police are also looking at the treatment of eight other patients since 7 July.

Officers were called to Stepping Hill after an experienced nurse reported a higher-than-normal number of patients on a ward with "unexplained" low blood sugar levels.

Police are still waiting for the results of post-mortem examinations on the five patients.

All deaths at the hospital are being referred to south Manchester coroner John Pollard until further notice.

Meanwhile, staff have been told to work in pairs to check and administer drugs. A single keyholder also has to be asked for access to locked drugs cabinets.

Saline solution has also been locked away at the hospital.

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