‘I’m glad my brother isn’t alive to see what happened – he loved Treloar’s’

Former pupils of a boarding school where boys with haemophilia were infected with contaminated blood have said they were told to “carry on as normal” as their peers became sick.

More than half of the boys treated for haemophilia at Lord Mayor Treloar College between the 1970s and 1980s are now dead.

Several pupils who attended the boarding school in Hampshire in the 1970s and 1980s were given treatment for haemophilia at an on-site NHS centre while receiving their education.

But it was later found that many pupils with the condition had been treated with plasma blood products which were infected with hepatitis and HIV.

Treloar School court case
Some of the Treloar’s boys with lawyer Des Collins outside the High Court in London (Collins Solicitors/handout)

One survivor described how the pupils “became like brothers” as they had lessons, ate meals and played together.

A grieving sister has described how her brother “absolutely loved” the school would have been devasted to see the stories that have since emerged about it.

Janine Jones said that her brother Mark Payton could not wait to get back to school after every holiday.

Mr Payton died when he was 41 after being co-infected with both hepatitis C and HIV.

Ms Jones, from Coleshill, Warwickshire, told the PA news agency: “Mark moved to Treloar’s in 1972 when he was 11.

“He was there until 1979, he actually stayed on, he loved it that much.

“He couldn’t wait to get back there after breaks, he would be counting down the weeks to go back, he absolutely loved it.

“To be honest I’m glad he’s not here to witness what we are seeing now – it would have really affected him.”

The 59-year-old, whose brother was four years older than her, added: “My parents never got over it really, the fact that he was infected – they thought they were doing the best for him, sending him to Treloar’s to get a decent education.

“He missed a lot of education, most of his schooling when he was small was done on the children’s ward at the hospital in Birmingham.

“They really thought they were doing the best for him.

Mark Payton died when he was 41 after being co-infected with both hepatitis C and HIV (Handout/PA)
Mark Payton died when he was 41 after being co-infected with both hepatitis C and HIV (Handout/PA)

“Our parents have died in the last two years so I haven’t got to tell them that.

“They were more than happy the inquiry was happening but unfortunately they have both passed away without any recognition for their son dying at all.

“I’m his only sibling so there is just me left to fight for him now.”

Out of 122 boys treated at the school for haemophilia between 1970 and 1985, some 75 have since died.

Steve Nicholls, 57, from Farnham, Surrey, attended the school between 1976 and left in 1983.

In his class of 20 boys, just two are still alive.

“During the time we were there we were blissfully unaware of what was going on behind the scenes,” he told PA.

“At that time we were treated very well, we had the best life experiences, we were basically left to get on with being young teenage boys.

“We became like brothers because we grew up together, we ate together, we played games together, we learned together and we were treated together.

“So the bonds that were formed there were very, very strong, very strong.”

Steve Nicholls attended the school between1976 and 1983 (Handout/PA)
Steve Nicholls attended the school between1976 and 1983 (Handout/PA)

He described how pupils would see peers becoming ill, adding: “It wasn’t uncommon to see our peers becoming yellow and jaundiced, which we now know was hepatitis.

“But we were just told: ‘Not to worry about you’ll be all right. Just carry on as normal, go and play football, go to lessons as normal.’

“And it was the norm, we knew no different, we had no suspicions.”

Mr Nicholls was infected with both hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Asked how his health is now, he said: “It’s not good, I mean we just plough on and make the most of every day because we don’t know how long we got left.

“We’re a strong old bunch there and that was driven into us at Treloar’s, you know, to strive and to achieve.

“We all left there got good jobs, formed good careers, and worked for as long as we could until our health failed us.

“And now we’re in a position now where none of us can work. None of us have got pensions. None of us have got mortgages, none of us can get life insurance.”

Becka Pagliaro’s father Neil King, was co-infected with both HIV and hepatitis C while receiving treatment for haemophilia.

He died in 1996 when he was 38.

Rebecca Pagliaro with her father Neil King in 1986 (Handout/PA)
Rebecca Pagliaro with her father Neil King in 1986 (Handout/PA)

Mr King boarded at Treloar’s in the 1970s and stayed in the area and continued having his treatment at the centre there.

Ms Pagliaro said: “He went there for all of his schooling, he didn’t go back home afterwards and stayed in the area and carried on getting his treatment from the centre there right up to his death.

“They were very close to him, the doctors there almost felt like family.

“It feels like a big betrayal.”

Treloar School said in a statement: “This national scandal has devastated countless lives, including those of our former students and their families.

“Rightly, a public inquiry was set up to understand what happened and we have been a part of that process.

“We await the report’s publication and hope that it provides our former students who were infected, and their families, with the answers they deserve.

“We fully support their calls for the Government to accelerate compensation payments.

“Students and their families placed their trust in the doctors and medical professionals who provided treatment in the 1970s and 80s.

“It has been shocking to discover, through the ongoing public inquiry, that some of our students may have received treatment which was unsafe or experimental.

“Recently, we welcomed some of our former students back to our school.

“They visited the memorial to those who died following treatment with infected blood products, which is in our school chapel.

“We understand and support the need for a more public and accessible memorial, and want to work with our former students and families to achieve this.”