- A father has been praised for his courage
after giving a vivid, harrowing account to the inquiry into "mad cow
disease" of how its human form has destroyed his daughter.
- The inquiry, chaired by Lord Justice
Phillips, is trying to establish why the crisis was allowed to develop.
- Roger Tomkins said his 24-year-old daughter
Clare had enjoyed life to the full, loved animals and was looking forward
to getting married.
- But in the space of just six months she
was reduced to a wreck of a human being who could not control her movements,
cowered in fear from members of her family and howled at night like an
- Mr Tomkins, an engineering firm managing
director from Tonbridge, Kent, said it was only after extensive psychiatric
treatment that his daughter was discovered to have the new form of CJD,
thought to be triggered by infected beef.
- He told the inquiry in London that Clare
had been a strict vegetarian since the age of 13.
- He described how her symptoms began with
depression and a bad taste in her mouth.
- Now she is bedridden and has to be cared
for night and day at home. Since there is no cure for the disease, she
- As Mr Tomkins gave his evidence - keeping
his composure throughout - relatives of other New Variant CJD victims attending
the hearing wept openly.
- At the end he was congratulated for his
courage by Lord Justice Phillips and given a spontaneous round of applause.
- He told the inquiry he believed risks
had been taken over BSE.
- Mr Tomkins said he first noticed that
Clare was not herself in October 1996. She had returned from a holiday
with her fiancé in an uncharacteristically depressed mood.
- She began to lose weight, became increasingly
depressed to the point where she was crying for no reason and could no
longer face her job in the pet department of a local garden centre.
- The following year, her ability to walk
began to suffer and she started falling over and complaining of dizziness.
- Clare's condition quickly worsened. Her
handwriting, which was large and flamboyant, deteriorated into an "indecipherable
- 'Childlike' behaviour
- Mr Tomkins said Clare was treated with
anti-depressant drugs by her doctor. She became frail and fragile, displaying
"childlike" behaviour, and developed a nervous laugh.
- By the end of January 1997 Clare was
referred to a psychiatrist. Her movements became more and more agitated
- Clare was admitted as an in-patient at
a clinic. But eventually the psychiatrist began to doubt his diagnosis
of acute anxiety and called in a neurologist from the Kent and Sussex Hospital,
- Brain scan gave no clues
- When an MRI brain scan failed to reveal
any physical abnormalities it appeared to confirm the belief that Clare's
problem was psychological.
- Mr Tomkins told the inquiry how Clare's
illness took a turn for the worse after he had found her "in a terrible
state" at the clinic and brought her home.
- He said: "Her hands started to turn
inwards. Her feet started to turn inwards also. She became completely knock-kneed.
Her hips would become disjointed. If this occurred she couldn't walk unaided.
Her head movements became more and more frequent.
- "She walked in a thoroughly uncoordinated
fashion and cried constantly. The most harrowing thing was when she was
in bed and would howl like an injured animal. She looked at you as if you
were the devil incarnate."
- At times Clare was unable to recognise
her mother Dawn and cowered away from her in extreme fear.
- Clare was physically and mentally exhausted.
She was taken to the Kent & Sussex Hospital accident and emergency
- Violent outbursts
- At the hospital she was prone to violent
outbursts, kicking anyone who approached. She became doubly incontinent
and had to be fed through a tube into her stomach.
- A decision was taken to section Clare
under the Mental Health Act for her own safety.
- Mr Tomkins said further meetings of experts
led to the suspicion that Clare may be suffering from CJD.
- 'Why my daughter?'
- She was taken to St Mary's Hospital in
London, where Professor John Collinge, a leading expert on CJD, examined
a sample taken from her tonsils. This confirmed that Clare was suffering
from new variant CJD.
- Mr Tomkins was asked if he questioned
why his daughter had become a victim.
- "When I drive through London, I
look at football matches and see hundreds and hundreds of thousands of
people, and I think, 'Why my daughter?' As I am sure the other families
think the same. It is such a minuscule risk, but it has happened. And the
results of that risk are terrible."
- Vet 'forced to tone down' evidence
- Earlier during the hearing, a veterinary
surgeon recalled how a senior Ministry of Agriculture official forced him
to tone down a research paper at the start of the epidemic.
- Veterinary surgeon Colin Whitaker, from
Ashford in Kent, claimed he was forced to alter a scientific paper on BSE
in which he described the disease as a "new scrapie-like syndrome".
- Scrapie is the spongiform encephalopathy
disease suffered by sheep.
- Mr Whitaker said he was made to cross
out the words "scrapie-like" before presenting the results to
a meeting of the British Cattle Veterinary Association.