Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Anthrax found on teacher's drums

Geraldine Keita
Mrs Keita said she felt her workshops had been made a "scapegoat"

A drumming teacher has told a fatal accident inquiry she had not "thought deeply" about the possible health risks of importing West African drums.

Two drums owned by Geraldine Keita tested positive for anthrax, a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court was told.

Christopher "Pascal" Norris, 50, died in 2006 after attending a drumming workshop and class in the Borders.

Mrs Keita claimed her workshop had been made a "scapegoat" as only its drums had been tested for anthrax.

Mr Norris, of Stobs near Hawick, died a few days after attending a drumming workshop in Kelso and a class in nearby Smailholm.

I don't believe anybody else's drums except ours were tested, which doesn't make sense to me
Geraldine Keita

The inquiry heard that a dun dun and a djembe drum owned by Mrs Keita tested positive for anthrax.

The dun dun was used at a workshop in Kelso which Mr Norris attended on the Sunday before he died.

Asked whether Mr Norris played the instrument himself, Mrs Keita said she could not remember, as he had his own drum with him that day.

He also attended a drumming class in Smailholm on Tuesday, 4 July 2006.

Mrs Keita told the inquiry that she had imported a number of drums from the Republic of Guinea, a country she visited in 2004 to study drumming.

While there she met drumming teacher Nansady Keita, who she later married.

Anthrax spores were found on two of Mrs Keita's drums

Mr Keita arranged for drums to be flown to her in the UK.

Mrs Keita, 34, said that she asked Scottish Enterprise for advice on importing as she planned to set up a business.

Sheriff Principal Edward Bowen QC asked: "Did it ever cross your mind that there might be health risks regarding imports from that country?

"In terms of importing did it ever occur to you?"

She replied: "I had not thought deeply about the specific risks associated with what I was doing."

After Mr Norris's death health officials contacted her, said they needed to take samples of the drums and told her to stop classes immediately.

Initially they were given the all-clear, but she was later told that there were problems with two of the drums.

Mrs Keita said that there were 20 to 30 drummers at the Kelso workshop, many with their own drums.

She questioned why none of these had been tested.


She said: "I don't believe anybody else's drums except ours were tested, which doesn't make sense to me.

"It seems we were a bit of a scapegoat really.

"They found it on ours so let's not look anywhere else because then where do we go? It just gets bigger."

She suggested that the anthrax spores could have ended up on her drums through cross-contamination at the workshop.

The inquiry also heard from her husband, who was asked if he had ever heard of anyone becoming ill and dying after playing the drums.

He replied: "This is the first time I've seen a situation like this."

Anthrax is caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis.

It most commonly occurs in animals such as cattle, sheep and goats, but can also occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals.

Health experts have stressed it is not passed from person to person.

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