Blackpool Victoria Hospital medic arrested on suspicion of murdering patient - and is also being quizzed over alleged rapes and sex attack
A medic at Blackpool Victoria Hospital was today arrested on suspicion of murdering stroke unit patient Valerie Kneale.
The healthcare professional, who has been suspended by hospital bosses, is also being quizzed over two rape allegations relating to patients, and an alleged 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.”
Det Ch Insp Jill Johnston said: “We understand this will cause some significant concern in the community but please be assured we have a dedicated team of officers conducting a number of enquiries. These are complicated and sensitive allegations which we are committed to investigating thoroughly.”
The poison plot probe was launched in November 2018 after a whistleblower raised the alarm. 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.”
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.”
Vic boss Kevin McGee said tonight the hospital was “co-operating fully” with the police investigation.
He added: “The trust continues to ensure patients are safe and I would seek to reassure families about the quality of care.
We will be supporting staff to help them with this extremely distressing news.”