Nurse had been living in hell

Nurse had been living in hell. Nurse Rebecca Leighton said she had been "living in hell" after more than six weeks spent in custody accused of contaminating saline at a hospital at the centre of a tampering probe.

Prosecutors said it was "no longer appropriate" to continue proceedings against Ms Leighton, 27, whose alleged criminal damage had been linked to a number of unexplained deaths at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport.

Earlier on Friday afternoon she left HMP Styal in Cheshire and went home to her parents, David and Lynda, after spending 45 days in custody following her arrest, initially on suspicion of murder.

Speaking on her behalf outside the Leighton family home in Denton, Greater Manchester, her solicitor Carl Richmond said: "I have been living in hell and was locked up in prison for something I had not done. It was so frustrating for me knowing that the person who actually carried out these terrible acts is still out there.

"My life has been turned upside down. All I ever wanted to do was pursue a profession in nursing, and care for my patients. I think it unbelievable that anyone in the medical profession would ever put their patients' lives at risk."

Meanwhile, Greater Manchester Police said it was now investigating the deaths of seven patients - and potentially 40 victims in total - connected with sabotaged saline drips. Four of those whose deaths are being probed have yet to be named but their families are aware that the cases have been referred to police by Stockport Coroner John Pollard.

Detectives had previously announced they were looking at the suspicious deaths of Tracey Arden, 44, Arnold Lancaster, 71, and Derek Weaver, 83. Two other patients, George Keep and Vera Pearson - both aged 84 - were also linked to the inquiry but their deaths were later ruled out as not suspicious.

The alarm was raised in July when a higher than normal number of patients were reported to have "unexplained" low blood sugar levels amid fears saline solution had been contaminated with insulin. Ms Leighton, of Heaviley, Stockport, was arrested later that month and then charged with three counts of causing criminal damage with intent to endanger life and three alternative counts of causing damage being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

She was due to enter pleas next month ahead of a provisional trial date of next February over the allegations that she tampered with saline ampoules, saline bags and medical products. Last month at a bail application hearing, her barrister told a judge at Manchester Crown Court that the case against her was "weak" and she had "no case to answer".

On Friday night, CPS prosecutor Nazir Afzal said the prosecution could be restarted if "further evidence is presented" but added "on the evidence currently available there is not a case in law which could proceed".