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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 July, 2004, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
Family link new radios to death
By Catherine Cashmore
BBC News Online, East Midlands

Neil Dring cycling
Neil was a keen cyclist and a triathlete

Neil Dring died of throat cancer at the age of 38, leaving a wife and two young children.

A policeman with the Leicestershire force for nine years, he used radios daily in his job as a motorbike officer.

It is these devices which his family claim are linked to the death in June this year of Pc Dring, described as an exceptionally fit and active man.

They claim the controversial Airwave system emitted a type of radiation which turned the cells in his oesophagus, cancerous - the tumour developed directly where his radio receiver sat inside his helmet.

The system, costing 2.9bn is being introduced by the Home Office to all forces in the UK.

We're not angry, anger won't bring Neil back...what we're concerned for is, we don't want other families to go through it
Ian Dring

A study over the next 15 years has been commissioned by the Home Office to determine whether the systems do have any ill health effects.

Pc Dring's father Ray, from Twyford in Leicestershire, said: "His throat was closing up and finally he had to be fed through the nose.

"To see a lad who was fit and strong deteriorate in three and a half months is heart breaking."

Neil's brother, Ian, who has a PhD in Physical Chemistry is now leading a campaign for better regulation and testing of the Airwave system which uses Tetra mobile technology.

He said: "Neil believed Airwave had caused his illness and I think he had good reason to blame the radios.

"He suffered from headaches when he started using the systems.

"He had none of the pre-conditions for that type of cancer, the chance of him getting it was one in 100,000 which is staggering. It casts a big doubt in my mind.

"If people are suffering nausea and headaches then it's doing things to your body and it's worrying."

Neil Dring
PC Dring died 10 months after being diagnosed with cancer

The concerned family met with Leicestershire police on Friday to discuss their concerns.

Prior to the meeting, Chief Superintendent Bill Holland told BBC News Online: "As far as the force is concerned we'll follow the national guidance.

"There are limits on the emissions so that they are deemed to be safe.

"We take national guidance on that and have been completely open with officers.

"If we thought it was dangerous, we wouldn't allow officers to use it."

In a statement the force added: "Everyone in the Leicestershire Constabulary is deeply sad at the death of Neil Dring, who was widely respected and our condolences go out to his family.

"If we thought the Airwave had contributed to Neil's death we would withdraw it as soon as possible."

The family's concerns deepened after a police federation report found that 177 officers in Lancashire attributed ill health effects to Tetra radiation.

In a series of questionnaires the officers said they had suffered ill health effects such as headaches and nausea since the introduction of the new system.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Tetra health and safety issues have been subject to careful investigation by independent experts.

Health complaints

"Their advice is that Tetra technology is unlikely to present a risk to health.

"Tests have shown that Airwave equipment conforms to health and safety guidelines."

Airwave is available in 38 forces and has over 60,000 police users.

The 15 year study is being carried out at Imperial College in London and will cost 5m.

Until the results are known, the radios will continue to be rolled out to police forces across the UK.

Pc Dring's father said: "We're not angry, anger won't bring Neil back.

"What we're concerned for is we don't want other families to go through it. It needs to be out in the open."


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