Victims face insanity and certain death

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The Independent Online

The last painful months of Michelle Bowen are typical of those of many of the victims of CJD. From being a fun-loving young mother she became an "out-of-control" depressive who had to be locked in her home for her own safety. She died in hospital last November, aged 29, three weeks after her baby son was born by emergency caesarean section.

Stephen Dorrell, the Health Secretary, yesterday revealed that scientists had detected a possible link between BSE and the infection of 10 people aged under 42 with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. The Department of Health refused to reveal who the 10 victims were but Michelle Bowen is believed to have been among them. Her husband Anthony, 35, said yesterday that he was considering suing the Government.

The former butcher's shop assistant, whose husband also worked in an abattoir, began suffering severe mood swings and memory loss during the early stages of her pregnancy. "When Michelle started to change I thought it was a pre-natal depression," Mr Bowen said. "Then things began to get worse and worse. She became aggressive towards the children and quite often she didn't know what she was doing. One minute she'd be fine and the next she would be screaming and shouting. On more than one occasion . . . I had to lock her in the house so she wouldn't just run off and forget where she was."

Mrs Bowen went into hospital six weeks before she was due to give birth but had to be moved to a side ward because of her aggression. After her son Tony was born she entered a coma and never recovered.

The most recent victim was a vegetarian student, Peter Hall, 20, of Co Durham, who died in February after two years of the illness. His parents Derek and Frances Hall, both 48, claim he contracted CJD from eating beef for many years.

"The most frightening thing was the similarity between his condition and disease we have seen cows suffering from. It included shaking, nervousness and what appeared to be hallucinations," Mr Hall said.

"In 12 months we saw him deteriorate into someone who could not walk, talk or do anything for himself."

Stephen Churchill, a student, of Devizes, Wiltshire, died in May 1995, aged 19, 12 months after becoming depressed and dizzy. His mother, Dot Churchill, said her son sank into a living nightmare of madness and terrifying hallucinations. His parents were told he was suffering from a degenerative neurological disease. ''About four months before he died, he started to stagger and it brought back memories of seeing the cows we had seen on the news," Mrs Churchill said.

Others believed to be included in the 10 are: Victoria Rimmer from Clwyd, the first known teenage victim who has been in a coma for the past two years since the age of 16; Jean Wake, 38, who died in November 1995 years after working as a meat chopper in a pie factory; Ken Sharpe, 42 of Liverpool, who is not thought to have any links with cattle farming; Maurice Callaghan, 30; and an unnamed 17-year-old Turkish Muslim girl, living in Britain, who died of CJD last year.