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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June, 2004, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Nurse guilty of attempted murder
Barbara Salisbury
Barbara Salisbury was said to be trying to clear beds
A nurse has been jailed for five years for trying to kill two elderly patients at a Cheshire hospital.

Barbara Salisbury, 47, was found guilty of trying to kill them to free up more beds at Leighton Hospital, in Crewe.

The ward sister, from Pontybodkin, north Wales, was given two five-year sentences to run concurrently at Chester Crown Court on Friday.

She had denied four charges of attempted murder. She was earlier cleared of two of the charges.

Drug overdoses

The jury found her guilty of two counts of the attempted murder of May Taylor, 88, and Frank Owen, 92.

She was found not guilty of the attempted murder of James Byrne, 76, and Reuben Thompson, 81.

All four patients have since died.

Overdoses of diamorphine were said to have been administered by the former sister.

She was also accused of lying the patients on their backs, causing them to drown in their own lung secretions between 1999 and 2002.

You chose to exercise control over the life and death of patients whose time had not quite come
Mr Justice Pitchford

The six-week trial also heard claims she told James Byrne to "give in, it is time to go".

Salisbury, who is married with two children, denied all of the allegations and told the court she could not remember any of the patients.

She admitted she may have said: "it is OK to go now", in order to soothe a dying man.

Sentencing Salisbury to five years on each count, Mr Justice Pitchford told her she had broken her duty and abused her trust of care towards her patients and preservation of human life.

"You chose to exercise control over the life and death of patients whose time had not quite come and whose relatives were waiting for the inevitable to occur," he said.

'Distressing case'

"Your treatment of Mr Owen was, as one witness described, callous and unprofessional. Some of those nursing with you were traumatised by the experience."

Defence barrister, Peter Birkett QC, said Salisbury had no criminal record and had been treated in hospital for depression from August 2002 to July 2003.

A spokesman for Cheshire and Merseyside Strategic Health Authority praised the nurses who first reported Salisbury.

Frank Owen's son Harold told a press conference on Friday that he regretted the day he took his father to Leighton Hospital.

We have robust measures in place but no one could have imagined something like this happening
Sam Yates, Chief Executive of Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust
"My father was a hardworking man and had a great sense of humour, he deserved to be treated with dignity," he said.

May Taylor's granddaughter Alison Williams, who was also at the press conference, said justice had been served.

"The memory of all this will stay with us for the rest of our lives," she said.

Det Sup Adrian Wright from Chester Police said Salisbury's motive was still unknown as she had denied the charges throughout.

Chief Executive of Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust Sam Yates said it had been a "shattering experience."

"This was an extremely rare and tragic case," he said.

"We have robust measures in place but no one could have imagined something like this happening."

He said Salisbury had betrayed her patients in "this the most heinous of ways" and an internal inquiry had been launched

The BBC's Judith Moritz
"The prosecution said that Barbara Salisbury's motivation was to free up hospital beds"

Nurse 'tricked medics' over drugs
29 Apr 04  |  Staffordshire
Nurse 'tried to kill patients'
28 Apr 04  |  Staffordshire
Ex-nurse denies murder bids
08 Sep 03  |  Wales


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