Father tells BSE inquiry how CJD destroyed his daughter

11 March 1998

Father tells BSE inquiry how CJD destroyed his daughter

THE father of Clare Tomkins, a vegetarian dying from the human form of mad cows disease, told the BSE inquiry yesterday how CJD had destroyed his daughter.

Roger Tomkins described how the disease had reduced Clare from a “fun-loving, stunning strawberry blonde with a personality to match” to a person who “howled like a sick, injured animal”.

Clare Tomkins, now 24, is one of 23 young people to be struck down by Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the human equivalent of BSE.

Inquiry chairman Sir Nicholas Phillips praised his courage after Mr Tomkins
described his daughters living hell. She is now doubly-incontinent, cannot swallow and is cared for 24-hours-a-day at home to stop her drowning in her own saliva.

He told the inquiry: “Whatever we do, dont let this happen again.” Many were reduced to tears as he told his story.

David Bee, a West Sussex vet who encountered the first cases of BSE, told the inquiry that feeding meat to herbivorous animals had been common practice throughout the world and that he had not been concerned by this in the 1980s.

He said meat-based protein feed was necessary for modern high-yielding dairy cows. He thought that even feed from processed sick animals would have been safe because of the rendering process. However, it has since been discovered that the BSE agent can survive high temperatures.

Mr Bee said he thought it possible that BSE might have been present in the national herd before 1984. He recalled seeing an animal displaying the symptoms in 1981 but he could not be sure that it definitely had the disease.

He had thought the disease was from mouldy feed and was shocked after a
post-mortem in 1985 when Carol Richardson, a pathologist at the agriculture
ministrys Central Veterinary Laboratory, diagnosed spongiform encephalopathy.

Kent vet Colin Whitaker, the first person to recognise bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, told the inquiry how a senior figure in the agriculture ministry asked him to delete the words “scrapie-like” from one of his slides in a presentation he prepared on the new “syndrome” which he had planned to deliver to the British Cattle Veterinary Association.

  • Financial Times 11/03/98 page 1, page 10
  • The Times 11/03/98 page 3
  • The Independent 11/03/98 page 3
  • The Scotsman 11/03/98 page 4, page 10
  • The Daily Telegraph 11/03/98 page 1, page 3
  • The Guardian 11/03/98 page 3

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