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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 December 2007, 14:55 GMT
Camelford 'cover-up' claim probed
Lowermoor treatment works, Camelford
A toxic chemical was tipped into the wrong tank at the Lowermoor works
Police are to investigate allegations of a possible cover-up in the aftermath of the Camelford water poisoning.

Twenty tonnes of aluminium sulphate were delivered into the wrong tank at a water treatment works at Lowermoor on the edge of Bodmin Moor in 1988.

Afterwards people complained of a range of health issues.

The probe was ordered by the West Somerset coroner who opened inquests into the deaths of two women who lived in the Camelford area at the time.

One was 58-year-old Carole Cross, who died in 2004 and was the wife of environmental scientist Doug Cross, a member of a government committee which has been investigating the medical effects of the 1988 incident.

For nearly two decades Lowermoor water poisoning victims have demanded a real, open investigation
Lord Tyler

A post-mortem examination revealed abnormally high levels of aluminium in Mrs Cross's brain. She suffered from a neurological disease.

Irene Neal, 91, lived in Rock, north Cornwall, at the time of the pollution and died in a nursing home in Buckfastleigh, Devon, in June this year.

A brain autopsy on Mrs Neale, whose home was served by the Camelford water system, revealed an "unacceptable amount of aluminium in the brain", said her daughter Pam Melville.

The coroner Michael Rose said extensive pathology and other tests were undertaken by Professor Margaret Esiri at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, and by Dr Chris Exley at Keele University, Staffordshire.

Mr Rose said: "These tests have revealed there may be a connection between at least one of these deaths and the earlier incident.

"In view of the serious allegations made in the media of a possible attempt to initially suppress the seriousness of the incident, I am asking the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall to hand me evidence gathered at the time of the original investigation."

He also asked the chief constable to appoint a senior detective "to look into the allegations of a possible cover-up".

The coroner said he would like to resume the inquest hearing once that information is available.

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: "Following information contained within the coroner's press release, we have contacted him.

"He has not yet written to Devon and Cornwall Police but, when he does, we will consider his request."

'Open investigation demanded'

Lord Tyler, who was the MP for North Cornwall between 1992 and 2005, said the news was a "case of better late than never".

"For nearly two decades Lowermoor water poisoning victims have demanded a real, open investigation into the cover-up which followed the incident," he said.

"After years of dissembling from Conservative and Labour Ministers, it has taken the initiative of a coroner to get answers.

"I anticipate that the police will want to interview all the politicians involved."

After a trial at Exeter Crown Court in 1991, the South West Water Authority was fined 10,000 with 25,000 costs for supplying water likely to endanger public health.

Three years later, 148 victims of the incident reached an out of court settlement, with payments ranging from 680 to 10,000.

The probe has been ordered by the West Somerset coroner

Water poisoning report 'flawed'
11 Dec 07 |  Cornwall
Brain tests show aluminium traces
29 Nov 07 |  Cornwall
Poisoned water inquiry concludes
14 May 07 |  Cornwall
Call to test poisoned water users
20 Apr 06 |  Cornwall
Water poisoning evidence is heard
20 Dec 05 |  Cornwall
Questions over toxic water tests
15 Dec 05 |  Cornwall
Disease link to water poisoning
15 Dec 05 |  Cornwall

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