Grandmother’s family demand answers after she died on NHS ward

The family of an elderly stroke victim who was attacked by an unknown sexual predator as she lay helpless in a hospital bed “can’t rest until they have answers”. Valerie Kneale was attacked on a ward at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in 2018 and bled to death after the assault. The 75-year-old grandmother had been at home with husband Bill when she had a stroke during her evening meal and was rushed to the hospital on November 12.

By the afternoon she was sat up in bed and was talking to her grown-up and children, who thought they were leaving her in safe hands.

But tragically, that evening Valerie endured another stroke and never regained consciousness. It is not clear if she was attacked before or after the second stroke.

But the pathologist who later carried out her post mortem said she had suffered such a horrific internal injury that they felt “was caused by a forcible sexual assault after she was admitted to hospital”.

Valerie’s family was shocked to hear from Lancashire Police, who had to reveal the devastating truth that had been revealed in the post-mortem examination, and were also told detectives were launching a murder inquiry.

Her case was highlighted on the BBC Crimewatch Live programme on Tuesday morning, and has led to a Crimestoppers announcing a £20,000 reward for anyone who comes forward with information that leads to a conviction.

Speaking to the Mirror today, Detective Chief Inspector Jill Johnston, who is leading the investigation, said: “For over four years Valerie’s family have been left truly devastated by her death – they are desperate for answers and cannot rest until they understand what happened.

“And at a time when she really was at her most vulnerable.”

Speaking on Crimewatch, Valerie’s niece Lisa Jaffier expressed the family’s anger that someone could attack her aunt “when she was unable to defend herself”.

Lisa described her aunty Val as “such a wonderful, lovely person, she was fun, she loved people, she enjoyed life and was the hub of the family and she had this really lovely skill of making you feel so special and so loved”.

She said: “She was checked over and she was doing ok, she was sat up, communicating, obviously she was going to have challenges in her recovery, but we were all hopeful of a positive outcome. Her children wanted to stay with her that evening, but the hospital said she was in the best place, there is no need and she is going to be absolutely fine.”

That night, Valerie had another stroke and her family was told the outlook was not going to be good, so made the decision not to have any further treatment.

Valerie died on November 16 surrounded by her family.

“Losing her left a huge gaping hole in the family, the week before she was fine then a week later she wasn’t with us any more,” Lisa added.

She added the family were not looking for answers and expected the post mortem to say she died of a stroke, but the truth was absolutely horrific.

“To think that someone did that to a lovely person at a time when she was helpless, at her most vulnerable, where she couldn’t shout out, she couldn’t defend herself,” Lisa added.

DCI Johnston told the Mirror that since the programme went live on Tuesday, her team is now looking at a number of new leads.

“We have received a positive response to this week’s Crimewatch appeal and would like to thank those that have taken the time to get in touch.

“We are working through the information provided to establish any new lines of enquiry.

“I would still like to appeal for information and would once again encourage anyone who can assist our investigation to come forward.

“Please help us to get some closure for the family and get in touch.”

Anyone with information can call the incident room on 01253 604406 or call CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.

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