A murder probe has been launched after the death of a 75-year-old woman at a hospital stroke unit, police have revealed.

Valerie Kneale suffered an "unexplained injury" which is believed to be suspicious, detectives said.

She died at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in Lancashire.

Two women and one man were previously arrested on suspicion of poisoning patients after Lancashire Police were informed in November by bosses at the hospital of allegations of mistreatment and neglect on the unit.

The three hospital workers, who have all been suspended, were later released pending further inquiries as detectives ordered a number of post-mortem examinations.

Today police said one of those examinations involved Mrs Kneale, from Blackpool, who died at the unit on November 16.

Detectives said a cause of death for Mrs Kneale had yet to be established but it was being treated separately as a murder inquiry, although no arrests have been made and inquiries remain ongoing.

In a statement, Mrs Kneale’s family said: "We, as a family, are completely and utterly devastated and heartbroken to have lost Val in these circumstances.

"She was the most precious wife, mother and grandmother, our constant friend and problem solver who we will miss dearly.

"We kindly ask our privacy is respected while we continue to come to terms with our loss."

Detective Jill Johnston, of Lancashire Police, said: "A dedicated team of detectives are working on the investigation and we are still at the early stages of gathering evidence.

"We understand this is a concerning development but I would like to reassure people we are fully committed to carrying out as thorough an investigation as possible.

"Specially trained officers are providing support to Mrs Kneale’s family and my thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

"They are being kept fully updated and supported throughout the investigative process.

"If you can assist our inquiries, please come forward.

"Any information provided to police will be treated in the strictest confidence."

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