Police discover third case of blocked oxygen tube

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Detectives investigating the death of a nine-year-old boy during a routine hospital operation have discovered a third case where a vital oxygen tube became blocked.

Detectives investigating the death of a nine-year-old boy during a routine hospital operation have discovered a third case where a vital oxygen tube became blocked.

A third hospital was drawn into the police inquiry after the discovery of the similar case at Watford in April. The faulty tubing was discovered while a 57-year-old woman was being treated, but she made a full recovery.

Sabotage was not ruled out after problems with similar pieces of tubing at two hospitals within five miles of each other over a two-week period. Police believe the two cases could have been accidents.

Tony Clowes, of Dagenham, east London, died at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, on 18 July as he was being prepared for a routine operation after severing a fingertip when he fell off his bike.

Sources at the hospital where the boy died have denied that cost-cutting was a factor in his death even though the equipment had been used more than once, contrary to the manufacturer's guidelines.

A fortnight later, at Basildon Hospital, staff treating Jeremy Roberts, 42, a police officer from Grays, Essex, noticed there were problems with the tube linking an oxygen cylinder to his mask.

They spotted the problem early enough to act quickly. Hospital officials said he suffered no ill-effects and the operation for a urological problem went ahead successfully.

Essex police said yesterday they had discovered a third case at the hospital in Hertfordshire on 26 April. Officers from both counties met yesterday to discuss the cases.

A police spokeswoman said: "Hertfordshire Police had already been investigating it as a one-off incident after it had been reported to them. It has now been decided that there is sufficient information to now include it within the ongoing Essex inquiry."

A spokeswoman for Watford Hospital said: "We are aware of the incident and are in contact with the police. Due to the investigation it would be inappropriate to comment at this time."

Officials at Basildon denied that the equipment had been used more than once.

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