Melissa Swift was handed a minimum term of eight years after a court heard how she also sent an anonymous bloodstained letter to her step-sister, threatening to kill her before cooking and eating her body.
Swift, formerly of Hambletts Road, West Bromwich, pleaded guilty in February last year to three counts of attempted murder. The 25-year-old former police volunteer further admitted two offences of making threats to kill her step-sister and another woman.
Opening the facts of the care worker’s offending in July and August 2014, prosecutor Matthew Brook said Swift had placed noxious substances into water jugs and bottles at West Bromwich’s Goldfield Court care home.
Swift’s actions led to at least three of her colleagues being taken ill – one with a suspected stroke – after they consumed what they thought was normal water.
Mr Brook said: “The offences not only represent a severe breach of trust but also the accepted intention to kill three people.”
During the sentencing of Swift, who appeared in court via a videolink to Rampton psychiatric hospital in Nottinghamshire, it emerged that the poisonings were only uncovered after she confessed to a friend and her GP.
Judge Mark Wall QC was told that Swift has since been treated for a depressive disorder at Rampton.
Ordering that the would-be killer should be cared for at Rampton rather than in a prisonwhile she still requires treatment, Judge Wall told Swift: “You took, from your home to your workplace, containers which had noxious liquids in them.
“Your guilty pleas confirm your desire that people should drink those liquids and die as a result.
“The effects of what you did are unmeasurable. What is known is that at the time you were doing this, seven members of staff and 23 residents became unwell. You are surely responsible for much of that illness.”
The judge ruled that there was evidence of planning before the offences, including internet searches related to poisons. Passing a life sentence coupled with a Mental Health Act order, the judge told the defendant: “I am of the view your mental health issues do not extinguish your culpability.”
A previous hearing was told Swift had been a special constable with West Midlands Police until a month prior to her arrest in August 2014.
Commenting on the case, Detective Chief Inspector Michaela Kerr, from the force’s Public Protection Unit, said: “Melissa deceived her colleagues and hatched a plan to cause ill to those she worked with as a result of some malice, for which we have never truly discovered the cause.
“She not only thought out a way of poisoning her work mates but also followed the plan through and administered bleach to their drinks, leaving them in the usual staff fridge where she knew they would go.
“Today’s sentence reflects the severity of her actions. Thankfully no one was seriously injured as a result of what she did, but the story could so easily have been different.”