Blackpool Victoria Hospital medic arrested on suspicion of murder, rape and sexual assault remains in custody

A medic at Blackpool Victoria Hospital who was arrested yesterday on suspicion of murdering stroke unit patient Valerie Kneale remains in custody.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 5:09 pm

The healthcare professional, who has been suspended by hospital bosses, is also being quizzed over two rape allegations relating to patients, and a sex attack on a colleague, police said.

Detectives have been investigating Mrs Kneale’s death since a post-mortem examination was carried out more than two years ago during a separate investigation into the suspected poisoning of patients on the Vic’s stroke unit, which is ongoing and has seen a number of medics arrested but none charged.

Police said Mrs Kneale, 75, died from bleeding “caused by a non-medical-related internal injury.”

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Det Chief Insp Jill Johnston said while she "understands further arrests could be concerning", she would like to reassure the public that the force has a "dedicated team of detectives working on this investigation".

She added: "These are complicated and sensitive allegations which we are committed to investigating thoroughly.

“We are offering support to those involved and they are being updated throughout the process by trained officers."

The poison plot probe was launched in November 2018 after a whistleblower raised the alarm.

A man who was arrested by police as part of ongoing investigations related to Blackpool Victoria Hospital remains in custody.
A man who was arrested by police as part of ongoing investigations related to Blackpool Victoria Hospital remains in custody.

Detectives, who have grilled seven hospital workers since, believe elderly patients were given prescription-only drugs to keep them heavily sedated at night.

The drug, Zopiclone, is widely used and, when used properly, perfectly safe.

A “number” of post-mortems have been carried out, police said, though the force has remained largely tight-lipped throughout the past two years, even with local MPs calling for more transparency. However, at least eight people were flagged up as possible victims within the first weeks of the investigation, The Gazette reported.

One grieving daughter, who was told to cancel her dad’s funeral so a post-mortem could be done, said at the time: “I would not wish this on my worst enemy.”

The arrest is part of a murder investigation into the death of Valerie Kneale who died following a non-medical-related injury.

Mrs Kneale’s death was declared suspicious in February 2019. “We as a family are completely and utterly devastated and heartbroken,” her loved ones said in a statement.

“Val was the most precious wife, mother, and grandmother.”

Anyone with information in connection with the investigation can contact police on 101 quoting log 0942 of March 3 or report it via the major incident portal at https://mipp.police.uk/operation/0401020118W09-PO2.

Alternatively, independent charity Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at crimestoppers-uk.org.

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