Court’s ruling could allow veteran to sue

Denis Shaw from Grosmont who is suffering with side effects from working on Christmas Island ''w110802   Picture: Ceri Oakes
Denis Shaw from Grosmont who is suffering with side effects from working on Christmas Island ''w110802 Picture: Ceri Oakes

A GROSMONT atomic war veteran is awaiting a Supreme Court decision to determine whether he and more than 1,000 other veterans will be allowed to sue the Government.

Next week, the Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on whether to hear the appeals of nine test cases relating to other veterans present on Christmas Island.

Of the 1,011 claimants, more than half have already died and they are passing away at a rate of approximately three per month.

Denis Shaw (71), of Ings Terrace, said: “They think we are all going to die off and go away.

“There is many a day I feel like quitting but as my doctor said, I am not willing to die before I beat the MoD.

“We have got to keep going for the families and the children.”

Mr Shaw has been in regular contact with Whitby’s MP Robert Goodwill, who mirrors the stance of veterans’ minister Andrew Robathan, criticised recently for refusing to engage in a debate on the matter.

When questioned in the House of Commons Mr Rabathan also stated that the courts had ruled there was no link between radiation poisoning and the tests, despite this not being the case.

Mr Goodwill said: “The Government and Ministry of Defence (MoD) have a responsibility to the veterans but they also have a responsibility to the taxpayer to only pay out damages where a causal effect is proven.

“It is very easy if someone is a veteran to say their illness is because of that.”

Mr Shaw is a very sick man and has suffered 12 heart attacks since 1971.

He has also just been diagnosed with acute beryllium disease (ABD), caused by inhaling beryllium dust, which could claim his life at any moment.

Beryllium is a naturally occurring metal that is lighter than aluminium but harder than steel, making it ideal for use in aircraft, x-ray machines and nuclear weapons.

He was present on Christmas Island shortly after nuclear tests took place there and is now waiting to discover if the Government and the MoD can be held to account for the debilitating health problems that have plagued him and his family ever since.

Mr Shaw said: “When I was on the island I was sent to recover a generator that had been at the centre of an atomic blast.

“I had no mask or protection, just a hat and a set of shorts.

Perfectly healthy prior to his posting on Christmas Island, Mr Shaw’s health began to degrade soon afterwards, but he isn’t the only member of his family to suffer ill-health.

Mr Shaw added: “Put it this way, before Christmas Island both me and my ex-wife had perfectly healthy children, and since then we had my daughter Janet, who has all the health problems I have, a still-birth and three miscarriages.

“Janet’s got two lads and the eldest one, when he gets cold, you can see the blood flowing through his veins.

“The younger son was born with two sets of lower teeth, and when the dentist took them out he said ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’.”

Mr Shaw joined a group of 1,011 veterans who believe that the ill-health they have suffered is a direct result of being exposed to radiation on the island.

The veterans are all represented by Rosenblatt’s law firm, who have already invested millions on the case, without seeking any payment in return.

Rosenblatt’s partner Neil Sampson said: “The Government are claiming that too much time has passed and it is therefore impossible to prove that their illnesses are related to the testing on Easter Island, despite every other nuclear nation setting up compensation schemes for anyone affected by radiation sickness.”

“The UK is the only nuclear power in the world to deny that participation in the tests causes illness.

“The United States accept that there is difficulties in proving the link but they are prepared to accept that if you have one of 23 diseases and you took part in the tests you qualify for $75,000.”

Mr Shaw first filed his case against the MoD in 1992, and even if the nine test cases are thrown out by the Supreme Court, he has vowed to continue fighting his corner.

Mr Sampson added: “We know we have got a difficult case but these are people who are not looking for money, they just want the Government to say sorry.”