Dying to know the truth
1st November, 2002
Since defeating the government in 1984 over its compulsory warble fly erradication scheme, Mark Purdey has been travelling the world to find the real cause of BSE and vCJD. His conclusions are controversial, fascinating, and if proved right, will cost the government millions in compensation.
As part of my quest to identify the real causes of BSE I recently travelled to Groote Eylandt, a remote island located off the north-east Australian coast, to study a cluster of mysterious and fatal neuro-degenerative diseases – collectively known as Groote Syndrome – that had erupted among the Aboriginal people of the village of Angurugu. Unmotivated murders occur on a near weekly basis in the village.
Despite being officially blamed on the supposedly aggressive tendencies of Aboriginal people when drunk, such extreme ‘psychotic’ behaviour is unprecedented anywhere else in the Australian Aboriginal community. According to the Aboriginal elders of Angurugu, the problem developed in the late 1960s when a mining corporation started open-cast extraction of manganese nearby – causing a fine black dust of manganese dioxide to cloak the village.
As many as one in 30 people now living in Angurugu suffer from the neurological stages of Groote Syndrome. The symptoms are a grotesque mix of motor neurone failure, wasting and dementia, which reduce its victims to a state akin to ‘a stick insect trying to cross ice’.
A fierce controversy rages over the origins of Groote...
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