A grandmother who died in hospital whilst recovering from a stroke may have been murdered by a killer who could strike again, police have warned as they launch an investigation. Valerie Kneale died in November 2018 from a hemorrhage caused by a “non-medical related internal injury.” A post-mortem examination revealed that the 75-year-old was subject to an attack while she was a patient on a stroke unit at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, which police believe could have been sexual.
A post-mortem examination said she had bled to death due to being assaulted, possibly sexually.
But the killer is yet to be caught and remains at large.
Appearing on BBC’s Crimewatch this week, Detective Chief Inspector Jill Johnston said: “It’s a real worry to the investigation and to the hospital that this could be just one of a number of attacks at the hand of someone who is a predator and who may have committed previous attacks of this nature.”
She said the investigation has been “challenging” as police interview thousands of people, including hospital staff and patients.
Independent charity Crimestoppers has now announced it is offering a £20,000 reward in exchange for any information.
In a statement Detective Johnston, of Lancashire Police, said: “This may be at the hands of somebody who is a predator and who may have committed previous attacks of this nature and may continue to do so.”
DC Johnston said Ms Kneale was subject to a “horrific attack which ultimately led to her death” and the force remains “fully committed to finding” the killer.
She added: “For four years Valerie’s family have been left devastated by her death – they want and deserve justice.
“Her murder is truly tragic and heart-breaking. She was a patient in the hospital, receiving medical treatment when she was subjected to a horrific attack which ultimately led to her death.
“We know someone has had this on their conscience for more than four years now. Do the right thing. Come forward and speak to police – help us to solve this terrible crime.
“Our priority and the priority of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is to ensure the safety of patients.
“We continue to support Valerie’s family and they are being kept fully updated by a specially trained officer.”
Ms Kneale’s niece Lisa Jaffier told Crimewatch the family were “hopeful for a positive outcome” after she was admitted to hospital after falling ill.
But Ms Kneale took a turn for the worst and her family decided to withdraw treatment.
Ms Jaffier said: “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.
“We’re left with a huge wound that can’t even begin to heal until we find out who’s responsible for doing that so that we can get justice.”
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