Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Drum skin plea at anthrax inquiry

Pascal Norris
Mr Norris was described by his brother as "thoroughly likeable"

The brother of a man who died after contracting anthrax has called for tighter controls on the importation of potentially contaminated drum skins.

Michael Norris, 49, was speaking at the start of an inquiry into the death of Christopher "Pascal" Norris.

The artist and woodworker, from the Scottish Borders, died on 8 July 2006.

A report from NHS Borders concluded Mr Norris, 50, was likely to have contracted the disease by playing or handling West African drums.

His was the first recorded death from anthrax in the UK for more than 30 years.

However, a drum-maker in east London died earlier this month after inhaling spores while handling animal skins.

It seems a bit rich that all this money is being spent on legal processes and no money is being spent on telling drummers to watch out
Michael Norris

A fatal accident inquiry at Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard Mr Norris was in remission from leukaemia when he died at his home in Stobs, near Hawick, a few days after attending a drumming class in Smailholm, near Kelso.

His brother Michael questioned the point of the inquiry before Sheriff Principal Edward Bowen QC.

He said: "As far as we know, Pascal's inhalation of anthrax came from playing the drums, admittedly with a compromised immune system.

"It seems a bit rich that all this money is being spent on legal processes and no money is being spent on telling drummers to watch out.

"The importation and provenance in general of drum skins needs to be addressed to stop people from dying."

He told the inquiry that his brother had been in good health when he last spoke to him a few weeks before his death, although he complained of a sore finger.

'Very sad'

He said his brother, a Buddhist and vegan, lived a healthy lifestyle and had plenty of energy.

Mr Norris described his brother as non-judgmental and "thoroughly likeable".

He told the hearing he had been "very shaken and very sad" after his brother's death.

The inquiry also heard from Pascal Norris's friend and neighbour, 69-year-old John Godfrey.

Mr Norris's home
Mr Godfrey found Mr Norris very unwell in his home near Hawick

He said he remembered Mr Norris feeling feverish on Wednesday but better the following day.

However, he said on the Friday he had noticed Mr Norris's door was open and went in to find him very unwell.

"He looked ghastly, very drawn," he said.

"I thought it was probably a result of the fever and thought he should see a doctor immediately."

He took him to see a doctor who immediately called an ambulance to take him to hospital but he died later that night.

Mr Godfrey said: "It was a tragic loss, a waste of a good life."

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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