THE death of a female pensioner at a Blackpool hospital is being treated as murder by cops.
A post-mortem carried out on Valerie Kneale, 75, found what police are calling a suspicious injury.
An investigation into Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s stroke unit was carried out last November after allegations of mistreatment and neglect.
Two women and one man were previously arrested on suspicion of poisoning patients.
The hospital workers, who have all been suspended, were later released pending further inquiries as detectives ordered a number of post-mortem examinations.
On Wednesday police said one of those examinations involved Blackpool pensioner Valerie Kneale, who died at the unit on November 16, and discovered an “unexplained injury” which is believed to be suspicious in nature.
Detectives said a cause of death for Mrs Kneale had yet to be established but it was being treated separately as a murder inquiry.
No arrests have been made relating to Mrs Kneale and inquiries remain ongoing.
We, as a family, are completely and utterly devastated and heartbroken to have lost Val in these circumstances
Statement issued by Valerie's family
In a statement, Mrs Kneale’s family said: “We, as a family, are completely and utterly devastated and heartbroken to have lost Val in these circumstances.
“She was the most precious wife, mother and grandmother, our constant friend and problem solver who we will miss dearly.
“We kindly ask our privacy is respected while we continue to come to terms with our loss.”
Detective Jill Johnston, of Lancashire Police, said: “A dedicated team of detectives are working on the investigation and we are still at the early stages of gathering evidence.
“We understand this is a concerning development but I would like to reassure people we are fully committed to carrying out as thorough an investigation as possible.
“Specially trained officers are providing support to Mrs Kneale’s family and my thoughts are with them at this difficult time.
“They are being kept fully updated and supported throughout the investigative process.
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“If you can assist our inquiries, please come forward.
“Any information provided to police will be treated in the strictest confidence.”
Anyone with information can contact police on 101 quoting (0756 of February 20), or alternatively contact https://mipp.police.uk.