Police hunt for killer after three patients die at Stockport hospital

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Police are hunting for a possible killer after pin pricks were discovered in vials of saline solution at Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, Greater Manchester where three have people died.

Security has been stepped up at the hospital following the deaths of a 44-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis and two men with cancer aged 71 and 84. All three are thought to have received saline deliberately contaminated with insulin, along with 11 other patients who were affected but not seriously harmed.

A senior nurse who noticed an unusual number of patients on the ward with low blood sugar examined the vials and found evidence of tampering. Analysis of the contents showed the saline vials had been injected with insulin, which is potentially lethal when given to non-diabetics. The hospital contacted police on Tuesday; all vials of saline were checked, and only one batch was found to be affected.

By then two of the patients had died. Later, following the checks, the third death occurred of the 84-year-old man.

Police said it was impossible to be sure what had caused the deaths until full post-mortem examinations had been carried out.

Chris Burke, chief executive of Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said all future deaths there which show any sign of relevant symptoms would be referred to the coroner for investigation.

"It was the staff at the hospital who brought this matter to our attention and I've asked them to continue to be extra vigilant to help safeguard patients. We have increased security both in terms of access to the hospital and access to medicines," he said.

Police said it was unclear what motive the perpetrator may have had.

Beverley Allitt, the "Angel of Death", was given 13 life sentences in 1983. While working as a nurse at Grantham and Keveston hospital she murdered four children by injecting them with high doses of insulin.