Blackpool hospital worker arrested on suspicion of patient murder and rape

A healthcare professional has been arrested on suspicion of murder, rape and sexual assault as part of police investigations into a hospital.

The man was arrested on Wednesday as part of the murder investigation into the death of 75-year-old Valerie Kneale at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in November 2018.

Lancashire Police said he is being held on suspicion of murder, two offences of rape and one offence of sexual assault.

He has been suspended by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the force added.

A post-mortem on Mrs Kneale was one of a number carried out as part of an investigation launched in November 2018 into allegations of mistreatment and neglect on the hospital’s stroke unit.

A murder investigation was launched when it was revealed she died from a haemorrhage caused by a non-medical related internal injury.

The police spokesman said officers also received information related to other allegations of serious sexual assaults against two patients, as well as the sexual assault of a healthcare professional working on the stroke unit.

A separate investigation into suspected poisoning of patients on the unit is ongoing.

Seven healthcare professionals have previously been arrested as part of the poisoning probe.

Detective Chief Inspector Jill Johnston said: “We have today arrested a man in connection with a number of serious offences.

“We understand this will cause some significant concern in the community but please be reassured 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.

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

“Our priority and the priority of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is to ensure the safety of patients. We are working closely with the trust as well as HM Coroner for Blackpool and Fylde as part of the investigation.

“If you have any information or have worked on the stroke unit and can assist with our enquiries, please come forward and speak to police immediately.”