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Louise Batchelor reports
"The report may bring some comfort to Scots victims' families"
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The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Nobody knows just how many will be affected by this"
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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"The families want better care for future victims"
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Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
BSE inquiry report welcomed
Donnamarie McGivern and aunt
Donnamarie with her aunt Tina O'Keefe
The families of Scottish victims of the human form of mad cow disease have welcomed the findings of the BSE Inquiry.

The long-awaited report found that Tory ministers and their officials repeatedly misled the public about the threat to human health posed by mad cow disease.

The government has also announced financial support for victims of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) - the human form of BSE - and promised an enhanced care package.

Janice Kerr
Janice Kerr died aged 35
Janice Kerr, 35, a mother-of-two from Milton of Campsie, Strathkelvin, died in 1996.

Her ex-husband Thomas Kerr said: "At least now there has been an admission, or at least it looks like there is going to be an admission of blame.

"It can help you tidy things up, rather than for ever wondering what was the cause, who was to blame, was there a cover-up?"

It is thought that a video made of another Scots victim may have helped sway the government.

Blair 'moved'

The film of Donnamarie McGivern , from Coatbridge, was distributed as part of a campaign by victims' families to show the suffering caused by vCJD.

It was hoped that it would have an effect on Prime Minster Tony Blair, who has four children of his own.

He said no one who saw the 10-minute footage could remain unmoved by the plight of the victims and their families.

Tony Blair
The prime minister was moved by the footage
The video had also been shown in private to Lord Justice Phillips, who chaired the inquiry.

His report found that civil servants and politicians had failed to heed scientists' warnings about the threat of BSE and did not act quickly enough when evidence started to emerge that humans were being infected.

The 16-volume report also focuses on a failure to enforce abattoir controls which were designed to ensure that any potentially BSE-infected beef was removed from the food chain.

The video of Donnamarie was shot at her home in October 1998, more than a year after she became ill.

It shows her to be confined to bed in an emaciated state, virtually blind and wearing an oxygen mask.

Advanced stages

Donnamarie, who had been a star athlete at her school, had a feeding tube connected to her body and groaned when her mother Marie lifted her from a chair to her bed.

Her frail body was propped up by some of her cuddly toys, while on the walls around her were pictures of her favourite pop star Peter Andre.

She remained in the same state, unable to talk, eat or see, for another year before she died in her mother's arms on 2 September, 1999.

The video was the first time the BSE inquiry had seen footage of a new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease victim in the advanced stages of the disease.

Some legal experts believe the video helped sway the government to agree a multi-million pound care and compensation package for victims and their families.

Lord Justice Phillips
Lord Justice Phillips: Leading the inquiry
Donnamarie's aunt Tina O'Keefe, 48, decided to make the video to chart the true horror of the disease after she watched news reports of the inquiry hearing being told by a former chief veterinary officer that beef was safe.

"I wanted to show the inquiry exactly what Donnamarie and her family were going through," said Mrs O'Keefe, a former nurse.

"A few days after making the video I went to the inquiry. Lord Phillips took me into a private room and we sat in silence watching it."

Mrs O'Keefe said a senior civil servant was so moved by what she saw that she kissed her hand and told her to kiss Donnamarie for her.

Mrs O'Keefe said her niece became ill in 1997 at the age of 14. She died two years and eight months later at the age of 17.

She said: "The symptoms were vague to begin with, although she suddenly had terrible temper tantrums and would smash her room up.

"Then she became tired and withdrawn and kept on saying that she did not know what was wrong with her.

"By this time she was stumbling around like a drunk, hardly able to put one foot in front of the other."

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See also:

02 Oct 00 | Scotland
BSE crisis sparks father's anger
19 Oct 00 | Scotland
'Growing fears' over mad cow disease
20 Oct 00 | Scotland
BSE alert over polio vaccine
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