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Monday, 7 October, 2002, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Family calls for nuclear health tests
Michelle Roberts (right) and daughter Louise
Michelle (right) and Louise had abnormal pregnancies
Relatives of an army veteran from north Wales used in nuclear experiments are demanding health tests after a series of medical problems in the family.

The family of Norman Callender, from Caernarfon, north Wales, claim they have been affected by radiation as a result of his involvement with nuclear tests in the 1950s.

Norman Callender
Norman Callender died of cancer last year

Mr Callender - who died of cancer last year - witnessed Britain's first nuclear tests on Christmas Island in the Pacific.

His granddaughter Louise recently had to abort her baby because a scan revealed it had no arms or legs.

She was not the first woman in her family to lose a baby. Her mother Michelle Roberts miscarried a badly deformed child.

She was born with a heart defect, and claims she has had to cope with a series of other medical problems for several years.

"I've been in and out of hospital since 1990," she said.

"I just want to know what's wrong with me."

First tests

"I've had the most horrendous tests you can think of, but I still haven't had an answer."

Mrs Roberts' father was among those who witnessed Britain's first nuclear tests on Christmas Island.

New research by a Sunday newspaper has suggested that the grandchildren of nuclear test veteran are six times more likely to develop leukaemia and seven times more likely to develop Downs Syndrome.

The government has dismissed the findings - but the Callenders, along with many other veterans' familes, have insisted their problems must be taken seriously.

mushroom cloud
Thousands claim they were affected by the tests

Earlier this year two British law firms began investigating thousands of claims by veterans who said they became chronically ill after witnessing nuclear tests during the 1950s and 1960s.

The work being carried out by Alexander Harris and Clarke Willmott & Clarke could result in legal action against the Ministry of Defence to claim compensation for the victims.

Thousands of British, Commonwealth and United States troops took part in the tests which were held in Australia, Christmas Island and other islands in the South Pacific.

Many of those present say they were not given suitable protective clothing as they watched the detonation of nuclear devices by Britain and the United States.

Cancer deaths

The MoD has always denied that the level of exposure was enough to have caused the cancers and associated illnesses which many of the veterans claim resulted from the tests.

A number have died from cancer and others say the exposure to atomic radiation has made them severely ill.

Mervyn Fudge, a partner at Clarke Willmott & Clarke, said: "Research shows that the stance taken by the Ministry of Defence is incorrect and that the veterans have sustained injuries which should allow them to claim compensation from the British Government".

It is still unclear how many veterans have been affected and would be in a position to claim compensation.

A helpline has been set up for veterans who may have questions about the investigations: 0800 358 1855.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales' Joanna Warlow
"Veterans' familes say their problems must be taken seriously"
See also:

12 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
28 Jan 00 | UK
29 May 98 | Despatches
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