Christmas Island H-bomb test veteran’s death ‘natural’

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A coroner has concluded a Nelson man who served on Christmas Island during the H-bomb tests in 1958 died of natural causes.

An inquest in Burnley heard Raymond Speak (74), of Barkerhouse Road, had also worked in the textile industry and had been a smoker of roll-up cigarettes until a heart attack 20 years ago, but there was not enough evidence to show whether the bladder cancer which led to his death had been caused by any of these factors or something else.

Mr Speak had been diagnosed with a bladder tumour in 2011 after suffering pains after an aneurism and underwent three courses of chemotherapy which proved unsuccessful.

He was admitted to Pendleside Hospice for palliative care on January 3rd this year but died shortly afterwards, the inquest heard.

Mr Speak’s widow, Beryl, said her husband had been on Christmas Island where he was responsible for vehicle maintenance, as well as building roads and working in the quarries.

During his 10 months there, six hydrogen bombs were dropped.

On his return in 1960 after being demobbed, he spent most of his working life at Smith and Nephew factories in Colne and Brierfield as a warp gater until he was made redundant aged 53.

He had only limited contact with dyes when goods were transported from Colne to Brierfield, said Mrs Speak, who also worked at the mill for a time.

Protective masks were available, but she could not recall her husband wearing one.

Pathologist Dr Richard Prescott said a post mortem revealed a large bladder tumour which had spread to Mr Speak’s lungs and ultimately led to his death.

He said links had never been established between exposure to radiation on Christmas Island and cancer and the limited time Mr Speak had had contact with dyes while working were unlikely to be the cause either.

There was also insufficient evidence to say if the disease had been caused by his smoking.

East Lancashire Coroner Mr Richard Taylor said the cause of Mr Speak’s cancer could not be determined and therefore reached a conclusion his death was natural.