Murder-accused nurse Lucy Letby said it was “sickening” when she discovered she was being blamed for a number of baby deaths while doing the job she “loved”.
Seven months on from the start of her trial at Manchester Crown Court, Letby, 33, entered the witness box on Tuesday to give evidence.
She is alleged to have murdered five boys and two girls, and attempted to murder another five boys and five girls, between June 2015 and June 2016.
The prosecution says Letby was a “constant malevolent presence” in their care at the neonatal unit of the Countess of Chester Hospital.
Letby, wearing a black top and black trousers, told the court she had never hurt any of the children, including the “hundreds” she had cared for in the same period.
She also told her barrister, Ben Myers KC, she had never overfed a baby or used insulin with the intention of harming them.
Letby added she had also never physically assaulted a baby in her care.
Mr Myers asked: “What did you want to do with the babies you were looking after?”
Letby replied: “To care for them. To do my best for them. To help them.”
Asked earlier how she felt when she first realised in September 2016 she was being blamed for a number of baby deaths, Letby replied: “It was sickening. I just could not believe it. It was devastating. I don’t think you could be accused of anything worse than that.”
She said she was also “devastated” when she was removed from clinical duties in July 2016 and told her work “competencies” needed to be checked.
Letby said: “Because I have always prided myself on being very competent and, potentially, I was not competent, it really affected me and I was taken away from the job I loved.
“It was life-changing, in that moment I was taken away from the support system I had on the unit, I was put in a role I did not enjoy and I had to pretend it was voluntary.
“It made me question everything about myself.”
Letby went on: “My job was my life. My whole world was stopped.”
She went on: “There were times when I did not want to live. I thought of killing myself.”
Mr Myers said: “Had you done anything wrong?”
Letby replied: “No.”
Mr Myers said: “Then why did you think of killing yourself?”
Letby replied: “Because of what was being inferred.”
The defendant told the court about the three times she was arrested by police, on suspicion of murder and attempted murder of babies, the first time in July 2018 at 6am when she was in her pyjamas.
She described her arrests as “traumatising” and “the scariest thing I have ever been through”, and said she had now been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Among items recovered at her then home in Chester was a Post-it note found in a diary.
Among words written on the note were, in capitals, “I am evil I did this”, the court has heard.
Letby also wrote: “I don’t deserve to live. I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them. I am a horrible evil person.”
Mr Myers asked: “Had you done something intentionally to harm or kill them?”
Letby replied: “No.”
Mr Myers said: “You wrote ‘I am evil I did this’. Why?”
Letby said: “Because I felt at the time I had done something wrong and I thought, I’m such an awful, evil person, that I had made mistakes and not known.”
Mr Myers asked: “What had you thought you had done?”
Letby said: “That somehow I had been incompetent and I had done something wrong to affect these babies. I felt I must be responsible in some way.”
Mr Myers said: “In what type of state were you in when you wrote that note?”
Letby said: “Not good at all. Through that period my mental health was poor.”
Mr Myers asked: “How well did you cope with the situation you were in?”
Letby replied: “I did my best but it was difficult in the circumstances with the isolation I felt.”
The defendant also wrote “why me” on the Post-it note, the court heard.
Asked to explain those words Letby said: “Because I didn’t understand why it was happening to me. I thought I had always been competent and done my best.”
Mr Myers asked her: “Did you ever want to hurt any baby you looked after?”
Letby replied: “No, that’s completely against being what a nurse is. I’m there to help and care, not to hurt.”
The defendant was flanked by two female prison officers as she gave evidence, and sat upright throughout.
Another prison officer sat in front of the courtroom exit doors.
Several rows behind, her parents, John Letby, 76, and Susan Letby, 62, looked on, as did family members of the alleged victims on the other side of the public gallery.
Letby, from Hereford, denies all the allegations.
The trial continues on Friday.