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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Rapist could be fellow patient
King's College Hospital
The woman was raped in a hospital toilet
Detectives investigating the rape of an elderly woman being treated for cancer at a London hospital say her attacker could have been a patient.

The 71-year-old grandmother was pushed to the floor by a white man in his 50s and attacked in a toilet at King's College Hospital in south London on 1 May.

A senior police officer described the attack against the woman who is terminally ill, as one "to stop you in your tracks".

They believe the rapist could be a fellow patient or a hospital worker - but have not ruled out the possibility that someone from outside evaded the hospital's extensive security


I don't think any of us can imagine how it would be to be in a place of care and concern and for this to take place

Det Supt Jim Webster

The victim, who has only a few months to live, kept her ordeal secret for three weeks because she felt ashamed and did not want her family to know.

At a news conference, Detective Superintendent Jim Webster from Streatham CID appealed for information from the public.

"We are particularly interested to contact a white man in his 50s."

He said officers felt personally affected by the case and were committed to solving the matter.

"The lady and her family have been through a huge amount before this incident," he said.

"I don't think any of us can imagine how it would be to be in a place of care and concern and for this to take place."

Charity 'shocked'

Speaking to the BBC on Radio 4's Today programme, Health Secretary Alan Milburn described the attack as an "appalling and almost indescribable event".

The hospital has said it was "deeply saddened" by the incident.

A spokeswoman said the hospital was working closely with the police investigation.

She added the attack happened on a locked ward, as all their wards are secured by keys or have an entry code door system.

There are 150 CCTV cameras at the hospital.

The incident is the latest attack on a vulnerable women in a hospital.

The number of cases of abuse against elderly people in residential homes and hospitals was described as "shocking" by a charity.

In February 2000, Action on Elder Abuse revealed a quarter of all calls to its helpline were about older people complaining of being mistreated, exploited or neglected in homes and hospitals.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"Security at the hospital was supposed to be tight"
Det Supt Jim Webster
"We are particularly interested to contact a white man in his 50s"

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See also:

14 Jun 02 | Health
20 Apr 01 | UK
10 Feb 01 | Scotland
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