A 27-year-old nurse has been charged in connection with the deaths of five patients -- most of them elderly -- whose saline drops were allegedly spiked with a lethal dose of insulin.
Police identified the suspect as Rebecca Leighton, a registered nurse. She was arrested earlier this week and held by police. Today she was charged with six counts of causing damage with intent to endanger life. Leighton was also charged with theft of medicine.
Leighton is due to appear in magistrates court on Saturday.
The deaths occurred in Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, northwest England. Leighton works at the hospital.
Leighton was arrested on Wednesday July 20 by detectives from the Grand Manchester Police, who got a warrant to keep her in custody for further questioning until Friday night.
GMP said in a statement that they were first referred to the Stepping Hill hospital deaths by the coroner, who found low blood sugar levels in deceased patient Tracey Arden, who was 44.
Detectives from GMP's Major Incident Team are investigating the deaths of Arden, 44, George Roy Keep, 84, and Arnold Frederick Lancaster, 71. Police said the patients' saline had been contaminated with insulin.
On Thursday, two more former Stepping Hill patients, an 83-year-old man and an 84-year-old woman, were added to the list of possible murder victims.
Assistant Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said in a statement, "As with the deaths of George Keep, Arnold Lancaster and Tracey Arden the cause of this man and woman's death is not known and it is important we do not lose sight of this fact."
Hopkins said he could not "emphasize enough how complex an investigation this is." He said, "It is likely we will be asked to investigate further deaths."
Reports in British newspapers said that investigators are looking at the treatment of eight other patients at the hospital.
According to the AP, security has been stepped up at the hospital where 10 other patients fell ill but recovered.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.