A nurse was stabbed to deathin a "frenzied attack" as she was taking a cigarette break outside the hospital where she worked.
The body of Cheryl Moss, age 33, was found by cleaners in the grounds of St George's Hospital in Hornchurch, Essex, yesterday. Police cordoned off the hospital while forensic teams combed the area for clues about the killing. A police helicopter was called in to scour the hospital grounds and a nearby country park for signs of the killer.
Detective Superintendent Dick Langley said: "She was apparently having her break from work and had gone out for fresh air, and has been attacked by an unknown person and has been stabbed to death.
"There are a number of stab wounds on her body. It would appear at this stage that it was a frenzied attack on her body." Mr Langley said that despite trawling CCTV footage from the hospital they still had no description of the suspect and had not recovered the murder weapon.
Colleagues said that Mrs Moss, who had worked at the hospital for 17 years, had stepped outside the rear of the hospital for a cigarette break.
The attack immediately provoked concerns about the safety of NHS staff. Janet Davies, the director of service delivery at the Royal College of Nursing, said: "This is a shocking and tragic event and the RCN would like to express its deepest sympathy for the family of the nurse... Healthcare staff should not have to go to work fearing for their lives and personal safety."
Imdela Distura, 34, a trainee nurse at St George's Hospital, said the victim was an auxiliary nurse who worked in the hospital's Canvey ward, which specialises in the care of the elderly. "We are all very frightened about what has happened, we are all very upset," Ms Distura said. " She was found by one of the domestics outside this morning."
A card with a bouquet of flowers attached to the hospital gates read: " Cheryl, God bless you and keep you, from your colleagues on Canvey ward. X"
Mrs Moss's husband returned to the flat they shared in Dagenham, east London, last night flanked by police officers. A neighbour, Dennis Marsh, 68, said: "She was a very nice woman. She lived there for about seven or eight months. It's shocking."
Nursing groups and health watchdogs called on the Government to do more to protect NHS staff. Geoff Martin, head of campaigns at the pressure group Health Emergency, said: "We are concerned about whether security is being compromised and we are seeking assurances this is not happening. We want to make sure that everything is being done to make hospitals secure and that corners are not being cut," he said.
Scotland Yard said that the post-mortem examination would be held at Oldchurch Hospital, Romford, at 2pm today.
Attacks against staff decreasing, but more must be done by NHS
Nursing groups have been campaigning for many years for better security in and around hospitals.
Research by the Royal College of Nursing shows that nearly four in 10 nurses have been harassed or assaulted by patients or their relatives in the past 12 months. This figure rises to 79 per cent for nurses working in accident and emergency departments.
Despite cross-party support for increased protection for NHS staff, standards of security are still variable. Only two weeks ago, the watchdog the Healthcare Commission called for more to be done to tackle violence.
Despite a drop in the number of workers saying they were abused by patients or their relatives in the past three years, only half thought their health trust would take "effective action" if staff were attacked, according to the Commission's annual staff survey. Itsaid there were areas where "significant action" was needed to tackle violence against staff.Reuse content