British police hunt hospital killer

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British police were on Saturday hunting a hospital killer after the unexplained deaths of three patients, in a case with echoes of the nurse Beverley Allitt who was convicted of murdering patients in the early 1990s.

The inquiry follows the deaths at Stepping Hill Hospital in northwest England which are thought to have been caused by saline solution that had been deliberately contaminated.

"We have someone deliberately contaminating saline in the one place that people should feel they are being most cared for," said Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney of Greater Manchester Police.

"We are determined to prevent further harm and to bring the offender to justice."

Insulin was found in saline ampoules at the hospital at Stockport, near Manchester, after a nurse reported a higher than usual number of patients on her ward with unexplained low blood sugar levels, police said.

A 44-year-old mother-of-two died on July 7 and two men aged 71 and 84 died in the past week.

Detectives believe the insulin was deliberately injected into the saline containers which were used in the hospital. The deaths remain unexplained and post-mortem examination results were awaited, they said.

Security at the hospital has been stepped up to protect patients currently undergoing treatment there as police try to identify the culprit.

Allitt, dubbed the "angel of death", was jailed for life in 1993 for killing four children by administering fatal doses of insulin and attempting to murder nine other people at a hospital in Lincolnshire in eastern England.

© 2011 AFP

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