Families to tell of nv-CJD anguish

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The Independent Online
THE PUBLIC inquiry into BSE will next week hear harrowing accounts from families who have seen their loved ones die from the human form of "mad cow" disease.

The statements from 15 relatives tell how family members lost their memory, lashed out at their own children and suffered depression as the degenerative neurological disorder, new-variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (nv-CJD), devastated their brain.

The inquiry, which has already heard evidence from farmers, medical and government officials, was set up after victims' families pressed for an explanation of how and why relatives came to develop the disease, which has been linked to eating BSE-infected meat.

Esther Beaney describes how her partner Barry Baker, 32, a "loving, gentle" forestry worker from Kent who had once weighed 15 stones, looked like a prisoner of war by the time he died in June 1996.

The father of two started complaining of headaches and feeling increasingly unwell in 1995 and began showing signs of obsessive behaviour, including continually washing his hands. By the end of the year his speech had become slurred and his behaviour aggressive.

In her statement Ms Beaney tells how he would put a pair of socks on the same foot and then become abusive because he could not find the other sock.

She adds: "Barry easily became agitated by our two daughters. On several occasions, he pulled Kirstie, our youngest daughter, across the floor by one leg and smacked her with the palm of his hand straight across the face.

"Our eldest daughter, Kayleigh, who was five at the time, started to behave in an uncharacteristic fashion. During the week, she would ask me whether I was going to work at the weekend. She told me that she did not want to stay with her father because, in my absence, he was hitting her. Prior to his illness, Barry never hit our daughters."