Stroke patient, 75, ‘died after being sexually assaulted in hospital bed’

A healthcare professional has been bailed after earlier being arrested on suspicion of murder, rape and sexual assault after a 75-year-old pensioner died while in hospital from internal injuries from an alleged sexual assault.

Lancashire Police said the man was arrested on Wednesday, May 5, as part of the murder investigation into the death of Valerie Kneale at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on November 16, 2018.

Ms Kneale was admitted following a stroke and had later broken her leg when falling from a chair, an inquest into her death heard.

Her condition deteriorated and she died four days later.

The man, who is being held on suspicion of murder, two offences of rape and one offence of sexual assault, has been bailed to March 31, the force said in its statement.

Police had earlier announced the man had been suspended by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

"Valerie Kneale had been admitted to hospital with a significant intracerebral haemorrhaging, manifesting as a stroke, and having reportedly slipped from a chair to the floor fracturing her left leg," Coroner for Blackpool and Fylde Alan Wilson said when opening the inquest, The Sun reports.

"She is said to have suffered a marked deterioration in her condition and the next morning a reduced level of consciousness."

Mr Wilson added: "Concerns had been raised about a potential injury around the genital area.

"And this prompted a police investigation by Lancashire Constabulary."

The autopsy revealed that although Mrs Kneale "did have a significant right frontal intracerebral haemorrhage or stroke, the pathologist didn’t think this was the cause of death".

The 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.

Detective Chief Inspector Jill Johnston said she understood the developments would "cause some significant concern in the community but please be reassured we have a dedicated team of officers conducting a number of enquiries".

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

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 the suspected poisoning of patients on the unit is ongoing.

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

DCI Johnston said: "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."

Anyone with information can contact police on 101 quoting log 0942 of March 3, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or report it via the major incident portal.

If you or somebody you know has been affected by this story, contact Victim Support for free, confidential advice on 0845 30 30 900 or visit their website,

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