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Infected blood widow: Compensation is more about recognition of lives destroyed

Sue Threakall, widow of Bob Threakall, giving evidence at an inquiry into the supply of contaminated NHS blood to haemophiliacs in August 2007 (Clara Molden/PA)
Sue Threakall, widow of Bob Threakall, giving evidence at an inquiry into the supply of contaminated NHS blood to haemophiliacs in August 2007 (Clara Molden/PA)

A former deputy headteacher whose husband died after contracting HIV from contaminated blood said she will continue to campaign for those left out of Wednesday’s compensation announcement.

Sue Threakall’s husband, Bob Threakall, died in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in February 1991, aged 47, having suffered a marked deterioration in his health after being treated with the contaminated blood product Factor VIII.

Mr Threakall, a father-of-three, had been a haemophiliac since birth, and contracted hepatitis B in 1981, and then HIV in 1985 – although his family said the extent of his illness was largely trivialised by medics at the time.

His case was typical of many haemophiliacs treated with the blood-clotting product in the 1970s and 1980s.

Infected Blood Inquiry
Bob Threakall died in 1991 aged 47 after contracting HIV from contaminated blood (Family handout/PA)

Mrs Threakall, who now lives near Barnstaple in North Devon, is one of the people affected by the scandal eligible for the first wave of compensation identified by the Government as part of the ongoing Infected Blood Inquiry.

But she said: “There have been two tragedies – the tragedy of the fact that so many people in the population were exposed to these life-limiting viruses, and that we have had to fight tooth and nail for every tiny concession.

“This is not just about money – it’s about recognition of people whose lives have been destroyed, young adults have grown up their whole life without their parents and they have not been recognised, and parents whose young children died in their arms.

“We’ve always said there will always be families out there who don’t know what they are eligible to claim. Their lives could have been so much better supported.”

Mrs Threakall said some people had attempted to make campaigners “look like money-grabbing scroungers”, but said any compensation did not make up for decades of lost earnings, let alone the time missed with loved ones.

She said: “We are getting people coming to us saying, ‘It’s good you’ve won.’

“But, no – it’s an interim payment and it applies to a very small section of the haemophilia community.

“We still have a huge swathe of people whose lives were destroyed and who have not had anything, so we will continue to fight for them.”

Infected Blood Inquiry
Bob Threakall’s widow, Sue Threakall, has campaigned to highlight the contaminated blood scandal since 1985 (Family handout/PA)

Mrs Threakall, who has campaigned to highlight the scandal since 1985, said: “I’m not jumping with excitement – we are completely flattened by it, we are worn out.

“We are pleased it’s coming to an end, but to some extent there will never be an end.”

Mrs Threakall said medics told her husband that his hepatitis B would “go away” on its own, and that there was a six-month delay between him being tested for HIV and being diagnosed – at which point he was only given arbitrary advice about safe sex, rather than the full extent of his condition, and where it originated.

He was unaware that he also had hepatitis C at the time of his death.

Mrs Threakall gave evidence during the four-year public inquiry and described her husband, a former civil servant with the Department of Health, as “just an ordinary man living an ordinary life”.

She said: “He was a great dad, partner, brilliant friend.

“He was good fun.

“He was practical, dependable, reliable and as honest and honourable as it was possible to be.”