During his final lucid moments Andrew Black looked up at his mother with violet eyes and begged her: “Find out who did this to me.”
Three years earlier, Andrew was a promising radio and TV producer, but by the time he died in his mother’s arms he was bedbound, blind and unable to remember anything before his illness.
Instead he was killed by vCJD – the human form of mad cow disease BSE – when he was just 24 years old.
Mum Christine Lord vowed to honour her son’s dying wish, channelling her grief into a five-year investigation to uncover what the Government knew about BSE and when.
Her findings exposing an apparent cover up are published this week in her book, Who Killed My Son?
Christine says: “Watching Andrew die was the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life and it never goes away. It will be with me to the end of my days.
“You don’t get over losing a child to something as horrendous as that.
Documents showed the Government was warned to cull cattle as early as 1988 amid fears BSE could spread to and kill humans.
Meanwhile sources, many of whom were too scared to speak out publicly, told Christine infected cattle were smuggled into abattoirs at night.
And scientists in the know began boycotting beef during the late 1980s – even though the Government was still telling the public it was safe to eat.
One abattoir worker revealed infected cattle were delivered late at night to be turned into mechanically recovered meat which made its way into all kinds of food.
“One time they even had dead animals arriving in yellow sacks with radioactive signs on them,” says Christine.
Yet fears about the spread of BSE and the threat to humans emerged years before the public was warned.
They are marked “confidential” as investigators recommended “playing it low key.”
Experts warned the Government there was “a real possibility that doing nothing could prove extremely costly”.
Yet officials were reluctant to cull cattle to contain the disease because of the cost.
The then Minister of Agriculture John Gummer even appeared on TV in 1990 feeding a beefburger to his daughter.
It was only in 1996 that the Government finally confirmed the risk to humans – after victims were already struck down.