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From boy, 7, killed by AIDS to woman's life destroyed by Hepatitis C

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THE families of the blood scandal victims told yesterday how their loved ones had been robbed of life — and those responsible should be punished.

One, tiny Colin Smith, was infected with HIV and hepatitis C during a medical procedure when he was just 10 months old.

Colin Smith was infected with HIV and hepatitis C during a medical procedure when he was 10 months old

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Colin Smith was infected with HIV and hepatitis C during a medical procedure when he was 10 months oldCredit: Huw Evans
Colin developed AIDS and tragically died aged seven in 1990

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Colin developed AIDS and tragically died aged seven in 1990Credit: Huw Evans
Parents Janet and Colin with a suitcase full of their tragic son Colin’s treasured possessions, including his blanket

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Parents Janet and Colin with a suitcase full of their tragic son Colin’s treasured possessions, including his blanket

He developed AIDS and tragically died aged seven, weighing just 13lbs, in 1990.

His father, also called Colin, and mum Janet told how they tried in vain to get help for their critically ill son.

They said his doctor told them the boy had a “vivid imagination” when he complained of chest pains.

Janet said: “They had us down as overprotective parents but we knew our son, we knew he was suffering. He had AIDS but they kept it from us.

“We had ‘AIDS dead’ written on the side of the house, we had crosses scraped into the front door and we were getting phone calls saying he should be ‘locked in a room’.”

The couple, from Newport, South Wales, have a suitcase full of their son’s toys and drawings.

Janet pulls out a blue blanket and holds it close to her face, telling Sky News: “It still smells of him. This is the blanket he was wrapped in when he died.”

Demands are now growing for criminal prosecutions following decades of cover-ups after 30,000 were infected with contaminated blood, killing more than 3,000.

The public inquiry by Sir Brian Langstaff found that people “put their faith in doctors and in the government… and their trust was betrayed”.

Experts knew from at least 1973 that using blood from paid donors increased the risk of disease transmission.

Infected Blood Inquiry: Police should look into prosecutions says Labour MP

However they went ahead anyway, and still used contaminated products well into the 1980s.

Colin said: “A few sources are saying there’s a possibility of criminal charges.

“I’m hoping that’s right. I’m hoping there’s a few people out there who are sweating now because it’s coming to a climax.

“There’s a lot of anger there. I look at my other sons and their kids and think about what he was robbed of.”

He added: “I should have more grandchildren, I should have another daughter-in-law, I should be able to go for a drink with him.

There’s a lot of anger there. I look at my other sons and their kids and think about what he was robbed of

Father Colin

‘Taken away’

“All that was taken away, and that won’t be forgiven even after this. We went to so many funerals that we stopped going.”

Des Collins, of Collins Solicitors, representing nearly 1,500 families, said the NHS Trust which employed haemophilia expert Professor Arthur Bloom – heavily criticised in the report – should refer itself to the CPS.

Prof Bloom, who died in 1992, ran the Cardiff Haemophilia Centre and continued treating patients including Colin Smith with infected blood products despite knowing the huge risks of HIV and Hepatitis C.

Mr Collins said: “It is entirely possible the CPS may consider it now has sufficient grounds to begin its own investigation. There is certainly an appetite for this level of accountability within the infected blood community.”

There are doctors out there who should have been prosecuted for manslaughter

Clive Smith, a criminal barrister and campaigner for The Haemophilia Society

The inquiry heard heartwrenching evidence from dozens of people affected. Mark Ward, 55, infected with HIV and hepatitis C after receiving contaminated blood, wants those responsible to face justice.

Mark, born with severe haemophilia, said: “Prosecutions have to now happen, because the people who were responsible to care for the nation really failed so significantly and so many lives were lost unnecessarily.”

Sir Brian’s report highlighted how the scandal could and should have been prevented.

The treatments were mostly given to replace blood-clotting proteins in patients with haemophilia, who were at risk of serious bleeding from minor injuries.

Britain could not produce enough blood products so continued to import from America until the mid-1980s – years after they had been linked to AIDS.

Convicts were paid to donate but their blood had high rates of hepatitis C and HIV, with just a fraction of a millilitre enough to infect. Gung-ho UK doctors did not tell patients of the risks, lied to them, or even injected them without telling them.

The report said: “There was a lack of urgency when it came to patient safety. The risks of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections were downplayed or ignored.”

THE NINE KEY FINDINGS

1. HEALTH EXPERTS KNEW RISKS: Dangers of making blood treatments from large groups of people and paid donors, such as prisoners and drug users, who are at higher risk of viruses, were known very early on.

2. SCANDAL COVERED UP: Politicians, civil servants and doctors slow to act on warnings and even lied or hid the truth about the risks.

3. DISASTER AVOIDABLE: If warnings were heeded then infections, illnesses and deaths could have been avoided. Doctors should have used fewer treatments and the NHS could have used only UK-made products.

4. CHILDREN EXPERIMENTED ON: Kids — particularly boys at Treloar’s boarding school, Hants — were involved in experimental studies of clotting treatments.

They were often given them without parental consent or full risk explanation. Many later became ill and died.

5. MINISTERS’ LACK OF HONESTY: Successive governments told the public that patients were given the best treatment available at the time. This was not true.

6.  IMPACT COULD BE LARGER: Report said the true scale of infection and disease is still not known. Estimates suggest the real number affected could be around 40,000 or higher.

7. DELAYS MADE SUFFERING WORSE: Victims and families endured “compounded” suffering because it has taken so long to see action. Compensation delays mean many have struggled or died without ever getting a payout.

8. DEFENSIVE CULTURE DELAYED ACTION: Doctors were allowed to continue using the treatments because ministers were too afraid to challenge them or withdraw the products.

9. UK BEHIND THE CURVE: Britain continued using risky blood products longer than other major countries.

Some 23 nations began screening for hepatitis C before the UK, which continued to use prisoners’ blood for longer than the US, where it was shipped from.

‘Pervasive and chilling’

Medics later chose not to reveal the truth due to “the cost and effort of doing so, and the embarrassment.”

The government did not launch a public inquiry when it should have happened, probably in the 90s

Jason Evans, of Factor 8 campaign group

Clive Smith, a criminal barrister and campaigner for The Haemophilia Society, said: “There are doctors out there who should have been prosecuted for manslaughter.

“Doctors who were testing their patients for HIV without consent, not telling them about their infections, who then went on to sadly infect their partners and they then went on to die.”

Jason Evans, of Factor 8 campaign group, said “a lot of the villains” in this scandal have died.

He added: “The government did not launch a public inquiry when it should have happened, probably in the 90s.”

The inquiry found that Governments feared opening the floodgates for compensation.

Documents which should have been “accessible and recoverable” were also deliberately destroyed.

It called the cover-up “subtle, pervasive and chilling” and added: “There has been a hiding of much of the truth.”

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said there was “potential for corporate manslaughter charges against Whitehall departments”.

  • Additional reporting: Andy Robinson, Alice Fuller, Jack Elsom and Martina Bet

TIMELINE OF A SCANDAL

1970: Doctors in the UK start using treatments made from blood of paid donors, including inmates in US prisons.

1970s: Studies under way at Treloar boarding school in Hampshire to test the treatments on pupils, often without the consent of their parents.

1973: Experts realise commercially produced treatment is riskier than those from NHS donors

1973: UK discusses the risks of using blood from prisoners — but decides to ­continue with it.

1977: Cases of hepatitis at Treloar are linked back to the treatments.

1981: Aids first begins to be diagnosed in the United States.

1981: Factor 8 blood treatment linked to higher risk of hepatitis.

1983: A UK haemophilia patient dies of Aids for the first time.

1983: A medical journal warns blood ­clotting products may be linked to Aids.

1983: The United States makes move to stop using high-risk plasma — but the UK keeps importing it.

1984: Aids is proven to be caused by the HIV virus.

1984: Use of blood collected from prisoners is finally stopped in the UK.

1984: It is accepted as a “near certainty” that blood products can cause Aids.

1985: Thirty-seven Treloar pupils test ­positive for HIV, which is linked to the treatment that they received.

1987: Government launches the Macfarlane Trust to make payments to people with haemophilia who had been infected with HIV from NHS-supplied blood products. The charity initially received £10million for payouts and a further £19million grant was made after two years.

1988: Around 1,000 haemophiliacs who had been infected with HIV by transfusions or blood products sued the Government, but cases were settled out of court.

1989: Hepatitis C, a previously unknown strain, identified for the first time.

LATE 1980s / EARLY 1990s: Contaminated blood clotting products still being used.

1991: The first test for hepatitis C is made available for use.

2003: The first financial support is offered to victims by the Government.

2007: The privately funded Sandwell Inquiry begins. It was completed in 2009, concluding that the use of contaminated blood products to treat patients with haemophilia was a “horrific human tragedy”.

2017: The Infected Blood Inquiry is launched by then-PM Theresa May.

MAY 2024: Sir Brian Langstaff publishes the inquiry report, revealing decades-long “chilling” cover-up and NHS failings.

Colin's father, also called Colin, and mum Janet told how they tried in vain to get help for their critically ill son

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Colin’s father, also called Colin, and mum Janet told how they tried in vain to get help for their critically ill sonCredit: Huw Evans

CASE OF JANICE WHITEHORN

By Andy Robinson

JANICE Whitehorn contracted hepatitis C from her mum when she was born — but did not find out she had it until she was 36.

Janice Whitehorn contracted hepatitis C when she was born, after her mum Daphne received a blood transfusion during a kidney transplant

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Janice Whitehorn contracted hepatitis C when she was born, after her mum Daphne received a blood transfusion during a kidney transplantCredit: Supplied

Her mother, Daphne, became infected from a blood transfusion during a kidney transplant in 1973.

Janice, now 45, says she is lucky because others died young without ever knowing they were infected.

But the wedding dress maker said the treatment she received destroyed her womb and plunged her into early menopause.

Janice, of Houghton Regis, Beds, said she felt vindicated by the findings of the report.

She said: “The main thing is it proves the government was covering it up and lying about it.

“We felt silly like our voices weren’t heard for so long but now people will finally believe us. It won’t repair my lack of trust in the system because this has showed me the people I’m meant to trust are liars.”

CASE OF GENE DAVID

By Andy Robinson

DECORATOR Gene David found out he had HIV in 1989 — four years after a blood transfusion while having his tonsils removed.

Gene David found out he had HIV four years after a blood transfusion while having his tonsils removed

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Gene David found out he had HIV four years after a blood transfusion while having his tonsils removedCredit: Gene David

Gene, 20 at the time and now 58, was refused medication and given just six to 18 months to live.

He said of the horrific revelation: “Life just stopped. I was lucky in a sense, being young and carefree, but I went off the rails and was living like they were my last moments.

“When I look at old pictures of myself, I think that man died because my whole life was destroyed.”

Thanks to lifesaving treatment Gene, from Manchester, survived and was able to give evidence to the Infected Blood Inquiry.

He said that seeing the report published yesterday had been “very emotional” for him.

He added: “There’s a long way to go yet for justice but it feels like finally someone has asked the right questions and dug into the truth.”

CASE OF SHEILA DAVIES

By Sam Blanchard

OLYMPIC swimmer Sharron Davies described how her mum suffered for decades after being given contaminated blood during a transfusion.

Sharron Davies' mum Sheila developed hepatitis C after being infected during a gallbladder operation

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Sharron Davies’ mum Sheila developed hepatitis C after being infected during a gallbladder operationCredit: Apex

Her mum Sheila developed hepatitis C after being infected during a gallbladder operation in the 1970s.

She went on to develop liver cancer, which can be caused by cirrhosis and scarring from hepatitis.

Sheila died in 2017, aged 78, but Sharron said she was given no help during her illness.

The former athlete said: “It’s very frustrating because I’m sure Mum would still be here today had it not been for this.”

She blasted the Government during an appearance on ITV’s This Morning.

Sharron said: “Other countries managed to get convictions against drug companies. We are the last in the world to sort this problem out.

“This is happening scandal after scandal, and it must stop. We have to start dealing with our mistakes.”

CASE OF GARY WEBSTER

By Sam Blanchard

GARY Webster is one of just 30 ­surviving boys out of 122 who were given infected blood products at a boarding school.

Gary Webster was infected with Hepatitis B, C and HIV

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Gary Webster was infected with Hepatitis B, C and HIV

He wept as he told the inquiry how he felt guilty for being spared when many of his childhood pals had died.

The report into the scandal found that kids at specialist school, ­Treloar’s College, Hants, were “regarded as objects of research”.

It also ruled that staff at the school’s on-site NHS clinic were “well aware” of the risks involved.

Gary, 59, of Southampton, who was infected with Hepatitis B, C and HIV, said: “We were exploited as children.

“We didn’t know it at the time but we were guinea pigs. We looked up to the doctors treating us but we were used as lab rats and so many died.”

Pupils with haemophilia often missed chunks of school. They were sent to Treloar’s as it had its own NHS treatment centre and gave them the chance of a normal life.

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