Gulf war veteran blames vaccines
Monday, 19 July, 2004, 21:00 GMT 22:00 UK
Source: BBC NEWS
A Gulf war veteran has blamed a cocktail of vaccines for harming his health during the 1991 conflict.
Richard Turnbull, 52, from North Wales told the Gulf War Illnesses Inquiry in London the treatment affected his breathing and caused chest pains.
In 10 minutes he received vaccines including plague and anthrax, malaria and nerve agent pre-treatment tablets.
The independent inquiry is examining the conditions which veterans say afflicted them on their return.
Complaints by ex-servicemen include mood swings, memory loss, lack of concentration, night sweats, general fatigue, sexual problems, sensitivity to chemicals and cancerous tumours.
Mr Turnbull claims he was previously a fit sub-aqua diver before he had five heart attacks and never dived again following his return.
He told the hearing he was in charge of a nuclear biological and chemical team when a Scud missile was intercepted by a Patriot missile and a series of chemical alerts sounded.
According to Mr Turnbull, control said the alarms sounded as a result of unburnt fuel on aircraft take-off.
But he claims that no aircraft took off at the time and when he tested raw aircraft fuel with one of the affected alarms, it did not react "as in the presence of chemical weapons".
He added: "I haven't dived since the Gulf war. My health was A1 fit in November 1990 when I had a sub-aqua diving medical.
"I haven't dived since the Gulf war due to chronic chest pains and asthma."
Another witness, Anwen Humphreys from Cardiff, also complained of similar symptoms after she took a cocktail of vaccines as she prepared to be deployed to the Gulf.
The inquiry later heard from widow Carole Avison, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, who criticised Tony Blair for breaking an alleged pre-election pledge to investigate the veterans' illnesses through a public inquiry.
Her husband Major Ian Hill was also said to be previously A1 fit.
But he had to be airlifted from the Gulf in 1991 after developing pneumonia, the inquiry was told.
His health eventually deteriorated and he died in 2001 following seven years of terminal illness.
Ms Avison told the inquiry: "We met with Tony Blair, and he said if we get into government he said what we would do is leave no stone unturned. We would get a public inquiry - that is what he promised Ian himself.
"They make promises before they get in government to get that vote, and that's it."
The three week inquiry, which was eventually adjourned until Wednesday at 10am, aims to establish the facts about Gulf war illnesses and resolve the long standing dispute over their causes.
Support groups say that 6,000 veterans have suffered unexplained ill health since the conflict and more than 600 are said to have died.
But the Ministry of Defence has constantly denied the existence of the so-called Gulf war syndrome and says there is no single cause of the illnesses suffered.