A government-led inquiry that will look at why almost 3,000 people - including two men from St Neots - died after receiving contaminated blood products, will start hearing evidence today (Tuesday).
Most of the victims died prematurely - many were haemophiliacs or those with conditions that meant they were given blood transfusions or blood plasma.
Some were pregnant women who developed complications during childbirth and others were even infected through dental treatment. It is now known that infected blood and blood products originated from prisoners and drug addicts in America who were carrying the Aids virus and hepatitis C and had been paid for their donations.
The law firm Collins Solicitors is representing core participants, including Tony Farrugia, and Christopher Smith, of St Neots, whose fathers both died from Aids after being given blood products.
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Mr Farrugia and one of his brothers were placed into care when their father died at the age of 37. Mr Smith said his father's death at the age of just 32 had “killed the family business and killed some of the family in the process as well”.
Standing outside the hearing on Tuesday, Mr Farrugia, who expects to be called to give evidence later this year, told the Hunts Post: “We are overjoyed that the inquiry is finally going ahead, but we need to ensure the right result. Over three decades, subsequent governments have failed the victims. There has been an announcement about more money for victims and their families, but it doesn't go far enough and people should not be made to jump through hoops. We need a scheme that gives full compensation to the victims.”
Mr Farrugia said he had “every faith” in the inquiry team, being led by Sir Brian Langstaff. The inquiry will continue for two weeks and then move to Belfast, Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff before returning to London in June and then again in October. It could be 2021 before any conclusions are reached.
The inquiry, ordered by Theresa May last year, after decades of fighting for justice by the families of the people who died, will look into how and why it was allowed to happen and whether there was any subsequent cover-up by governments and health bodies. Some of the victims who contracted HIV and hepatitis C died in the 1970s and 80s when there was little public sympathy for Aids victims and this meant some families were too frightened to talk openly and were ultimately forced to lie about how their loved ones died to avoid stigma and shame.
At least 4,689 people, many of them haemophiliacs, were infected with HIV, hepatitis C or both, and at least 2,944 have since died.