Murder on Ward Four: The Story of Bev Allitt and the Most Terrifying Crime Since the Moors Murders (1993)

This book plaits together two very different stories. Most obviously,  it is an account of what happened when a young woman with a murderous personality disorder managed to find herself work as a nurse on a children’s ward. That is a classic crime story, which begins with the mystery of a peculiarly perverse series of killings and which then follows the painstaking investigation to the point of final exposure. But beneath the surface, it is also an account of how Britain’s most treasured institution – the National Health Service – was undermined from within by a relentless campaign of spending cuts inflicted by a government which cared far more about winning votes by cutting taxes than it did about the safety and well-being of its people.

Murder On Ward Four traces the accelerating crisis on a ward that became a killing ground: the series of unexplained deaths; the distraught families; the helpless staff; the clever detective and his pursuit of the clues; the scandal as the truth dawned; the political panic that followed; and the eerie mind of the murderer with the very curious past.

Nick Davies spent two years working with the families of the children who were attacked as well as with doctors, nurses and managers from the hospital and with the detectives and lawyers who dealt with the crisis. The result is a book which tells the the story of a hospital – populated by staff who specialised in understanding sickness and death – which was so weakened and demoralised that it became a place where literally it was possible to get away with murder.

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