- Veterans were "dismissed as trouble-makers"
when they complained of a range of debilitating illnesses after the Gulf
War in 1991, the first day of an independent inquiry into the suspected
syndrome was told yesterday.
- The three-week hearing in London, headed by the former
Lord Justice of Appeal Lord Lloyd of Berwick, will take evidence from 30
ex-servicemen, medical experts and government representatives in an attempt
to establish the facts about Gulf War illnesses.
- The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has always denied the existence
of "Gulf War syndrome", insisting there was no single cause of
the illnesses suffered by veterans of the conflict.
- Flight Lieutenant John Nichol, who became a familiar
face during the war when he was captured by the Iraqis and paraded on television,
told the inquiry yesterday that more than 637 previously young and fit
servicemen had died since the end of the war. Of the 5,585 who had been
granted disablement, 1,388 had specified conditions related to Gulf War
illness, he said.
- He said that those afflicted had been rebuffed and treated
like the enemy. "When the veterans were begging for advice, begging
for answers, they were being fobbed off and dismissed as trouble-makers,"
he said. He added that the MoD had failed to heed warnings about the dangers
of the cocktail of drugs given to servicemen and women in 1990 and 1991.
- Flt Lt Nichol, a former RAF Tornado navigator and president
of the Gulf Veterans branch of the Royal British Legion, said he considered
himself lucky not to have returned with the same health problems as many
of his comrades. He said many had been "assaulted" by multiple
inoculations programmes, including anthrax and plague, mass use of nerve
agent pre-treatment tablets, heavy use of pesticides, atmospheric pollution
from burning oil wells, possible exposure to nerve agents when storage
facilities were destroyed and depleted uranium dust.
- Sufferers displayed a variety of symptoms - chronic fatigue,
memory loss, depression, mood swings and aching joints - and some developed
cancer. Of the 53,000 servicemen and women deployed, about 6,000 had complained
of health problems, the inquiry heard, while others suffered in silence.
- Flt Lt Nichol said the MoD had spent £8.5m researching
the illnesses since 1997, approximately the same amount as its annual entertainment
- Lord Lloyd also heard from Samantha Thompson, whose husband,
a naval officer, died two years ago of motor neurone disease, a condition
which is more than twice as prevalent among Gulf War veterans than others
of their age-group. She said the authorities in America recognised that
the disease was attributable to the conflict. "For my daughter Hannah,
I want her to see her father's death has been thoroughly investigated,"
- Shaun Rusling, who won an important ruling two years
ago when a War Pensions Agency tribunal officially recognised Gulf War
syndrome as a disease, also appeared at the inquiry.
- The inquiry, which is independent from the Government,
is funded by an anonymous donor and cannot demand evidence from the MoD
or the Department of Health. Lord Lloyd has written to the departments
requesting they take part in the hearings, but they have yet to respond.
Lord Lloyd said: "I hope very much they will co-operate with this
inquiry. It seems to me they have nothing to lose from doing so."
- Lord Lloyd, 75, will sit alongside Dr Norman Jones, treasurer
of the Royal College of Physicians, and Sir Michael Davies, formerly clerk
of the parliaments. The donor, who is meeting the costs of between £50,000
and £100,000, is said to be concerned about the welfare of ex-servicemen
- The MoD and the Department of Health said they were considering
whether to give evidence to the inquiry, which was described by Charles
Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, as "long overdue".
- The inquiry was adjourned until next Monday.
- 'EVERY WEEK YOU HEAR OF SOMEONE ELSE WHO HAS DIED'
- Major Christine Lloyd considered herself 100 per cent
fit when she volunteered to go to the Gulf in 1990 as a nursing officer;
two months later, she returned exhausted, permanently aching and unable
to concentrate long enough to administer medication.
- Yesterday she told the independent inquiry that she attributed
her continuing ill health to the cocktail of vaccines and drugs she was
- Ms Lloyd was a 43-year-old reservist when she answered
a call for medical volunteers. Before she left Britain in January 1991
she was given seven inoculations, including one described as "biological",
which she later realised was anthrax.
- Two weeks later she arrived in Saudi Arabia to help set
up a field hospital and prepare for what they believed would be a major
influx of casualties. She noticed that the area was being sprayed with
pesticides, including organophosphates, the safety of which is now questioned.
- The stress of Scud missile alerts was compounded by the
poor facilities, she said. Many of the drugs dispatched to the field hospital
were out of date, she claimed, while the equipment looked like something
more suited to the Second World War.
- She began taking nerve agent pre-treatment (Naps) tablets
and immediately became disoriented and dizzy. "The side effects of
the Naps tablets continued: diarrhoea, frequency of urination and headaches,"
- But there were more vaccines to come. In February she
was given another series, including inoculations against anthrax and plague.
- In mid-March she returned home. "After three weeks
leave I returned to work. I was always exhausted. I had headaches. I couldn't
concentrate. I was becoming a danger giving out medication. I had short-term
memory loss. I could no longer walk up hills and mountains."
- In October 1992 she was declared unfit for work, and
still suffers from a range of problems. "Every week you hear of another
colleague who has died ... We need to get to the bottom of this,"
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