A NURSING sister tried to murder four of her elderly patients at Leighton Hospital in a 'ruthless drive' to free up beds, a court has been told.
Barbara Salisbury, 47, is on trial at Chester Crown Court charged with four counts of attempted murder between May 1999 and April 2002.
It is alleged she accelerated the deaths of the patients, all from South Cheshire, because she wanted them off her ward 'one way or another'.
Robin Spencer, prosecuting, said: 'These were all patients whose days, or even hours, were numbered.
'For all the prospect of recovery was poor or non-existent. For some death was imminent.
'Barbara Salisbury arrogated to herself the right to decide when they should die, and attempted by her actions to curtail what remained of their lives.'
Mr Spencer alleged Salisbury tried to kill Reuben Thompson, 81, from Crewe, by lying him flat on his back knowing severe lung problems would cause him to 'drown'.
And she allegedly administered an unnecessary dosage of the heroin-based drug diamorphine to Frances May Taylor, 88, also from Crewe, after telling a colleague: 'Why prolong the inevitable?'
On another occasion it is claimed she told nurses treating Frank Owen, 92, from Nantwich to: 'Lie him flat. With any luck his lungs will fill with fluid and he'll die.' She is also accused of giving James Byrne, 76, from Northwich, an excessive dose of diamorphine by repeatedly pressing the boost button on a drug pump.
The jury has been told that Salisbury, who started work at the Crewe hospital in 1993, tried to hurry the deaths of Lily Hillier, 86, Edwin Everett, 79, and Fred Hughes, 85. Their addresses were not revealed.
She is also alleged to have removed fluids or administered excessive doses of diamorphine to several other pensioners who prosecution lawyers say nurses can no longer identify.
Mr Spencer added: 'Why did she do it? It's difficult to fathom the workings of the human mind.
'One explanation is the defendant had a downright cruel streak.
'Another is a desire for control. She seems to have been motivated by a ruthless drive for efficiency to free up another bed.
'One way or another, she wanted these patients off her ward.'
During the time of the alleged offences Salisbury worked as a nursing sister on general medical and geriatric Ward Five and as the general manager of Ward Four.
She lived in Lime Grove, Shavington, but moved to her current address in Pontybodkin, near Mold, North Wales, after she was suspended in May, 2002.
Salisbury denies all four charges. Her trial, which is expected to last for eight weeks, continues.