One year on, victims of cult gas attack still suffer

Most people would speak of the effects of being poisoned by sarin nerve gas as a nightmare, but for Dave Pearson they resembled a more mundane experience.

"Try to imagine it like this," he says, "the world's worst ever hangover. When they let me out of hospital, I slept for a few hours and then woke up with a raging headache. I couldn't focus on close objects, and my pupils were like pinpricks - my kids nicknamed me the Alien. Think of the worst hangover you've ever had, and then add a bit more. This went on for a fortnight. Not a pleasant experience."

A year ago this morning Mr Pearson, in his own words, "entered the history books for a few seconds" when he became the only British victim of the Tokyo subway attack. Just after 8am on 20 March 1995, he was commuting from his family's apartment in western Tokyo to the offices of Westpac Banking Corporation, the Australian company where he is chief manager. After one stop, people in his carriage started coughing. Mr Pearson noticed "a faint sweet, plastic kind of smell".

The train was crowded and at the next station he had to step off to make way for disembarking passengers. "It was then that I realised that something was wrong. They were carrying an old man off the carriage in front and laying him on the platform. He was lying there with his arms and legs convulsing, and there were people all around him sitting on the floor looking very unwell."

The old man died soon after, one of 12 victims of the most bizarre terrorist attacks in Japan's history. Half an hour before, 10 members of the Aum Shinri Kyo cult had boarded five separate trains, carrying plastic bags filled with the liquid form of sarin nerve gas. Travelling in pairs, they punctured the bags with sharpened umbrellas, before jumping off.

The cult's leader, Shoko Asahara, who finally goes on trial next month, had for years been predicting an apocalypse and acquiring chemical and biological weapon ingredients with the aim of hurrying the end along. Apart from the 12 dead, 5,500 people were poisoned by the sarin. Three remain unconscious, and will probably never wake up.

Mr Pearson was lucky. Somehow he struggled into a cab and made it to the office. His colleagues took him to hospital.

Within two weeks, he returned to work. But a month after the attack, he woke up in the night, trembling and hyperventilating. The panic attacks came every couple of weeks. According to Kanzo Nakano, a psychiatrist, 20 per cent of the sarin victims still suffer from headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nightmares, claustrophobia, flashbacks, depression and suicidal thoughts.

"Even last month, three new patients came forward for the first time," says Dr Nakano. "The long-term after-effects are immense, like a bottomless pit."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

MBDA UK Ltd: Electronic Sub-System Design Verification engineer

Flexible working, annual bonus, pension & more.: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the oppor...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Architect

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? MBDA has e...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Design Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

MBDA UK Ltd: PCB Technologies Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor