Rebecca Leighton is being questioned by murder detectives over the Angel of Death killings.
Leighton, 26, was arrested yesterday in a dawn raid at her flat which is a mile from the hospital where three patients have died in suspicious circumstances.
The nurse is being quizzed by police investigating the contamination of saline solution at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, Greater Manchester, where she works and was recently demoted.
Friends call her Becki and say she is “lovely and bubbly”.
The deaths of Tracey Arden, 44, George Keep, 84, and Arnold Lancaster, 71, are being linked to the saline “sabotage”. And a man in his 40s was last night still critically ill at the hospital.
They are among 14 patients whose treatment since July is being probed.
Forensic experts were last night searching Leighton’s flat in Stockport.
She is believed to have worked on the two wards – A1 and A3 – at the centre of the investigation.
A police spokesman said yesterday: “This morning a 26-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of murder. She remains in police custody for questioning and inquiries are continuing.”
A source at Stepping Hill said: “The whole hospital is shocked.
“Becki had been demoted from charge nurse to a nurse in the past few weeks.
“I don’t think it was a disciplinary issue. It was because the charge nurse position was a permanent one.
“Becki had been working on ward A3 and was moved to the position of nurse on ward A1. She has been at the hospital for at least a year. She has dark red hair and is quite normal.”
On her Facebook page, Leighton says she is engaged and adds: “I’m a happy go lucky kinda gal, loves the wkend (if im not workin) and having a laugh with the people that i call friends for a reason x”
A recent post on her page said: “What an exciting life I lead!”. She also wrote: “F*** it, life is too short”.
And in February she said: “I may be bad but im perfectly gud at it”.
Leighton, who was arrested by about 10 officers at 6am, lives with boyfriend Tim Papworth, 28, above his darts shop.
He plays at the nearby Star and Garter pub where he sponsors a weekly darts contest which Leighton helps to organise.
Landlady Beryl Cosgrove said: “Becki is a lovely person. Everyone around here in the darts world knows her and we are all completely shocked that she has been arrested over this.
“She is a pretty young girl who is very sociable but never talks about her job.
“On nights out she only drinks lager or cider – and never too much.
“She is always well dressed and appeared to be a hard-working girl who was bubbly and friendly.”
Becki, who is 5ft 6ins, was often seen by neighbours in her blue uniform.
Convenience store owner Hamit Bayatpoor said she was a regular visitor.
He added: “She has large eyes and is a biggish girl but very nice.
“I saw her only yesterday with her boyfriend. She used to come in to buy cigarettes – always 20 or 40 Mayfair – and a bottle of Echo Falls rose wine.” The nurse’s parents, Lynda and David, were not at their home in Denton, Greater Manchester, last night.
It is thought that Lynda also works at Stepping Hill where she trains nurses.
The couple’s next-door neighbour, Frank Eaton, 83, said yesterday: “I only know Becki to say hello to – but she’s a lovely girl.”
Mr Leighton is understood to be a coach driver who has driven the Manchester City football team.
At least 60 detectives are involved in the hospital investigation and have questioned more than 50 staff.
Police were alerted after a nurse reported an unusually high number of patients on her ward with unexplained low blood sugar levels.
Officers found insulin had contaminated a batch of 36 saline ampoules in a storeroom close to ward A1.
Detectives believe the hormone was deliberately injected into saline containers used in at least two wards but add that the deaths remain unexplained while they await the results of further pathology tests.
A coroner has opened and adjourned the inquests.
Chris Burke, the chief executive of Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, said that security had been stepped up and added: “Our staff are shocked, horrified and angry about what
“They are alarmed that a place which should be for care has become a crime scene.”
James Catania, medical director at Stepping Hill, said insulin was always kept in a fridge in a locked treatment room. Saline solutions are now also being locked away.
Gran Tracey Arden, who battled multiple sclerosis for 12 years and lived near Becki Leighton in Stockport, died at Stepping Hill on July 7.
Retired businessman Mr Keep, of Cheadle, near Stockport, was admitted to the hospital with a fractured hip after falling on June 27.
He seemed to be recovering but suddenly deteriorated. Doctors fought to keep him alive for six days, giving him blood and putting him on a saline drip to hydrate him. He died last Thursday.
Retired newspaper photographer Mr Lancaster, of Romiley in Stockport, died at Stepping Hill on July 11.
Police are investigating the deaths of two more patients at the hospital linked to allegations of sabotage.
The patients were an 83-year-old man and an 84-year-old woman, Greater Manchester Assistant Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said.
Detectives are continuing to question a nurse arrested on suspicion of the murder of three other patients at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport.
Rebecca Leighton, 27, was arrested yesterday at her home a mile from the hospital where she worked.
Tracey Arden, 44, George Keep, 84, and Arnold Lancaster, 71, are thought to have died following the deliberate contamination of saline solution with insulin.
The 84-year-old patient died on July 14 but her case was referred to detectives yesterday.
The 83-year-old man died today after he suffered a hypoglycaemic episode on July 11.
Mr Hopkins said: “As with the deaths of George Keep, Arnold Lancaster and Tracey Arden, the cause of this man and woman’s deaths is not known and it is important we do not lose sight of this fact.
“In relation to the death of the woman, this was referred to us by the coroner and after a review of the circumstances surrounding this death – notably the low blood sugar level – we have decided to investigate further.
“In relation to the man’s death, due to the fact he suffered a hypoglycaemic episode during a timeframe we are looking at it is only right we conduct further inquiries.
“We have family liaison officers with both families and my thoughts are with them as they are with the relatives of all affected by this incident.
“I want to make it abundantly clear that we are working closely with the coroner and, as is to be expected, it is likely we will be asked to investigate further deaths.
“In the main these are likely to be deaths of people who are elderly and/or ill, and we fully support the coroner’s ‘belt and braces’ approach to ensuring future deaths that require further investigation are appropriately investigated and scrutinised.
“I cannot emphasis enough how complex an investigation this is, requiring detailed forensic and medical analysis, and want to take the opportunity to thank the hospital and staff for their on-going help and support.
“Our inquiry has gathered apace and while we have made an arrest any suggestion that this investigation is close to being complete is misleading.
“All I can say in relation to the arrest is that we have a 27-year-old woman in police custody who has been arrested on suspicion of murder and I am not prepared to say anything else that could potentially prejudice a future trial.
“We are fully committed to finding out exactly what has happened and officers continue to work around the clock in order to provide answers to the families of those who have lost their lives.
“We are determined to identify and bring to justice the person responsible and we are continuing to appeal to anyone who might have information relevant to this investigation to get in touch.”
The officer clarified earlier reports suggesting a man in his 40s had died. The officer said he was in fact still very poorly.
He added: “I would very much like to reassure people that both of the deaths that are now forming part of this investigation occurred prior to the police being called.
“Since the police have been investigating, and the measures have been stepped up in terms of security at the hospital, we have had no further incidents of deliberate damage or contamination of products within Stepping Hill Hospital.”
The two pensioners had been patients on the wards in question, A1 and A3.
The inquiry centres on patients’ treatment since July 7.
Mr Hopkins said detectives’ focus was still on preventing further harm and once that was done they would look at cases before July 7.
“Our focus remains on the here and now,” he added.