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'They gave us a death sentence and we never committed a crime' - Contaminated blood victim determined to find justice in public inquiry

Contaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Contaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2019

A Norfolk victim of the contaminated blood scandal has said she is still angry for all those whose lives it has ruined.

Contaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal, pictured with her dog, Poppy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYContaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal, pictured with her dog, Poppy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Michelle Tolley, from Sparham, was speaking ahead of a public inquiry into infected blood was due to start up again next month.

Already witnesses, including 53-year-old Mrs Tolley, have given opening statements, but hearings will begin on April 30.

Grandmother Mrs Tolley was one of thousands of people who were given blood products infected with hepatitis viruses and HIV.

She had two blood transfusions in September 1987 and February 1991 after childbirth and although she went to her GP after seeing warnings about blood transfusions, her concerns were dismissed. It was only in 2015 she was diagnosed with hepatitis C by chance.

Contaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal, pictured with her dog, Poppy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYContaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal, pictured with her dog, Poppy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Now, she also runs support group Contaminated Whole Blood UK, which she said was her “purpose to get up”.

She said: “I used to think I was useless, I’ve let people down, what’s the point of me getting out of bed? So as much as I help the group, the group actually helps me.”

Mrs Tolley said she was still suffering the impact of her transfusions today, even though she has now had no trace of the hepatitis C virus in her blood for two years. .

She said: “My fatigue is unbelievable, when I came back from the September hearing it took me weeks to recover.

Contaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal, pictured with her dog, Poppy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYContaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal, pictured with her dog, Poppy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It’s ruined my life.”

Mrs Tolley described her husband Dean as her rock and said he had been forced to give up work to care for her.

“It’s the ongoing pain,” she said.

Mrs Tolley will not know until two week before the hearings whether she will be called as a witness again.

But she said she would be there anyway to support those who were.

“I would like the justice,” she said. “And I would like those, if found guilty, they need to be prosecuted, because if we did something wrong we would get put in jail.

“They gave us a death sentence and we never committed a crime.

“So if there were people out there who kept it hush hush, they should be prosecuted, somewhere, someone had to say keep using that blood.”

But she said it was not about compensation.

“It’s never been about money because I just want my last 32 years back.”

“I have it in my mind that I will die of liver cirrhosis.”

Mrs Tolley said she had been impressed with the inquiry so far, where investigators are sifting through 2500 boxes of evidence.

“They really do listen,” she said.

But she said her fear was that many people still did not know about the scandal and whether they might be affected.

“There’s thousands of people walking out in England and they just don’t know,” she said. “A lot of NHS workers don’t know.

“I’m still angry, not so much for me but the whole community. The grief and the pain, so yes I’m angry for everybody.

“I’ve done my fighting, I know if I want to say something I will be heard, but it’s the worst tragedy in the history of the NHS.

“So I’m angry for everybody, I’m angry it’s slipped through three governments, it should not come down to people who are dying to push it.

“We know we’re all going to die from it.”

To join Contaminated Whole Blood UK click here.

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