Infected blood scandal: Ex-pupil tells inquiry he did not know he was in a trial

A man who was one of scores of pupils infected with contaminated blood products at a specialist boarding school has told a public inquiry neither he nor his parents were told that he was taking part in medical trials.

Out of 89 haemophiliac children who attended Treloar College in Hampshire in the 1970s and 1980s, less than a quarter of former pupils are still alive, the public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal heard on Monday.

Like other haemophiliacs affected – a total of 3,000 are believed to have died – the schoolchildren were infected with hepatitis C and HIV after being given contaminated factor VIII blood products imported from the US in the 1970s and 80s.

On Monday, Gary Webster, a Treloar’s pupil who was infected with both, was the first witness to give evidence at the beginning of a week of hearings focusing on the school. He was shown documents about his medication, provided by the on-site NHS haemophilia centre, with the word “trial” written on them.

Asked whether he was aware at the time, when still a child, of being part of a trial, Webster replied: “Not at all.”

He said: “I honestly don’t remember having any information about going on trials research or anything like that. My parents never were informed of any of it … We always saw we were in some sort of weird experiment because we just couldn’t understand why they were pushing us so much to have all these injections.

“At the time we were just unaware, we just did as we were told.”

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A undated consent form purportedly signed by his mother was shown to the inquiry but Webster said she had no recollection of it. He said his parents were never written to about what products he was given and the only letter they could recall seeing, which was also shown, concerned a “serious breach” of school rules by Webster for having girls in his dormitory.

Earlier, the inquiry in central London was shown a document that said Dr Antony Aronstam, the director of the haemophilia centre, “emphasised the necessity for research as the concentration of haemophiliacs found at Treloar’s is unique within Britain”.

Webster recalled being told he was HIV positive in a matter-of-fact way, aged 18, in 1983, and that there was no guarantee he would be alive in a couple of years. Because he was an adult, he said he was left to break the news to his parents himself.

Webster said that after the diagnosis, he went on “a mission to destroy myself”, which lasted a decade, including driving a car into a brick wall in an attempt to kill himself.

He wept as he described himself to the inquiry as an “angry old man”. He said what had happened to him had had a huge impact on his family and left him struggling with relationships. “I have guilt still being here,” he said. “Losing 72 friends, school friends who you’ve known since you were that high … It’s just hard, because as I say you lose all these people – why?”


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