Murder trial of Stepping Hill Hospital nurse put off to next year
by Chris Osuh
1 April 2014
Victorino Chua, the nurse accused of murdering and poisoning patients with medical supplies, at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, faces a trial lasting up to four months.
Victorino Domingo Chua appeared at a preliminary hearing at Manchester Crown Court, before Judge David Stockdale QC, via videolink from the Category A wing of Strangeways prison.
Dressed in a grey sweatshirt, he appeared composed and spoke only to confirm his name and complain about difficulties hearing the proceedings.
In total Mr Chua, 48, of Churchill Street, Heaton Norris, Stockport, faces 34 charges, including three murders.
He is accused of killing Tracey Arden, 44, Arnold Lancaster, 71, and Alfred Derek Weaver, 83, while working at the hospital in July 2011.
He is also charged with the grievous bodily harm of one patient, poisoning a second, attempting to poison seven more and 22 more counts of attempted grievous bodily harm.
It is now expected that his trial will not begin until January 2015.
Rachel Smith, who is part of the prosecution team, said: “The defendant has been charged with three murders and a significant number of other serious offences arising out of the investigation into the poisonings of patients at Stepping Hill Hospital in 2011, and further offences relating to patient records in 2012.
“This case is listed for preliminary hearing – the defendant having been charged on Friday, and having appeared at the lower court (Manchester Magistrates) on Saturday.
“This is a case of some complexity – the evidence currently amounts to more than 20,000 pages and the current witness list exceeds 600 witnesses. The collective view is that this case could take three to four months to try.
“The size of this case, its complexity and the amount of expert evidence involved in it is such that it would seem unlikely that those representing the defendant would have everything they need to be ready for trial by September – the next most obvious point to set a trial of this length would appear to be January 2015.
“Engaged in this case are experts to causes and consequences of hypoglycemia, there’s neuropathological evidence, likely pathological evidence in respect of those with whom there are murder charges, evidence from forensic biochemists as to sampling of blood from patients and the interpretation of that sampling, and one of the experts engaged by the prosecution is, I understand, a world-renowned expect based in Cologne in Germany.
“There is other expert evidence relating to handwriting, all of those areas would have to be considered by those who represent the defendant.
“The case many ultimately become ‘was it this defendant who was the perpetrator?’ – or there may be a challenge to the assertions the offences occurred in any event.”
Typically, people awaiting trial remain on remand for no more than six months, so if the trial is not expected to start until next year, the prosecution will have to return to court to apply for ‘custody time limits’ to be extended.
However Mr Chua is expected to return to court on April 14 to apply for bail. He is also expected to return to court to enter pleas to charges on July 4.