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12,000 X-RAYS TO HIS BRAIN IN 6MINS; EXCLUSIVE RAF hero Eric's brain boiled as he was hit by 200 years of radiation in one flight to collect samples from an A-bomb. He had years of pain before killing himself.. and the MoD did NOTHING SUNDAY Mirror JUSTICE FOR NUKE VETS CAMPAIGN.

Byline: By SUSIE BONIFACE

FOR years, RAF pilot Eric Denson suffered crippling headaches and depression.

But doctors were unable to explain the squadron leader's condition - and the pain became so unbearable that eventually he took his own life aged just 44.

Sqn Ldr Denson's widow Shirley long suspected her husband's missions during the nuclear tests at Christmas Island in the 1950s were to blame and spent years trying to uncover the truth.

But only now, 32 years after his death, has the Government revealed the extent of the radiation he was exposed to.

Details released under Freedom Of Information laws show he was bombarded by the equivalent of 12,000 X-ray treatments - or 200 years of background radiation in just six minutes.

Shirley hopes the new information will help her in her battle for justice. She is one of 700 widows and veterans suing the Ministry of Defence for negligence. She says her husband was "left to rot" by his superiors.

Shirley, 73, said: "It's taken me 32 years of denial to find out what they did to him. Doctors said they'd seen no symptoms like it.

"When they sent him into that cloud he had so much radiation his brain was literally boiling.

They knew what they'd done but they left him to rot."

Sqn Ldr Denson was one of 22,000 men who witnessed Britain's nuclear testing in the South Pacific, Australia and America between 1952 and 1967. Only 3,000 survive and say they and their families are plagued by cancers and rare medical conditions.

Sqn Ldr Denson piloted a Canberra bomber and in 1958, aged 26, flew into the mushroom cloud of a three-megaton A-bomb to take samples. For three days he vomited with radiation sickness.

When he got home he had terrible headaches and mood swings.

Shirley, of Morden, South London, said: "One day he was holding his head with tears running down his face. He was in agony. We took him to psychiatrists but they had no idea what was wrong."

Twice Shirley found and saved her husband as he tried to commit suicide. The third time, in 1976, he succeeded, slashing his wrists in a wood near their home.

All of his medical records from his time at Christmas Island have disappeared. In 1998 Shirley found out from the MoD that a radiation meter in his cockpit registered a dose of 13 Rontgen - or 8,000 X-rays.

But this year she found the real truth was even worse when she wrote to the MoD using Freedom of Information laws. She said: "I got a document which said Eric had a meter just above his head.

That showed a dose of 19 Rontgen.

The lower dose was an average - most of the damage would have been done to his brain."

Russia, China and the US all acknowledge the effects of radiation on their nuclear vets.

But Britain has refused to recognise any link.

Veterans Minister Derek Twigg recently promised funding for medical research into the issue - but has backed away from an apology or paying compensation.

Shirley said: "I was lucky - my husband had a specific mission so there was a record. Thousands didn't even have that.

"I struggled to raise four children on my own, and there are many other wives who had to do the same. And all because the MoD doesn't have the decency to admit it treated our men like dirt."

s.boniface@sundaymirror.co.uk

22,000 SERVICEMEN & WOMEN WERE INVOLVED IN BRITAIN'S NUCLEAR TESTS. THERE ARE NOW JUST 3,000 LEFT. COME ON GORDON. SORT IT

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Eric Denson on Christmas Island mission in 1958; Eric Denson suffered crippling headaches; Eric flew Canberra bomber through a mushroom cloud
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 30, 2008
Words:621
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