The families of two people who died after being infected with Salmonella have spoken out ahead of an inquest into the deaths.

Sandra Blake and Stewart Graham died about the time Public Health England linked a 2018 Salmonella outbreak to items including pork bought at Chapman and Sons in Blackhall Colliery, County Durham.

Sandra’s husband, Heath, also fell ill with similar symptoms but survived. Tests later confirmed all three had Salmonella infections. There were 19 confirmed and three suspected patients with Salmonella infections in East Durham and Hartlepool in early 2018.

A pre-inquest review hearing into the deaths took place at Teesside Coroner’s Court this week with a date for a full inquest yet to be set.

‘While time may have moved on our family hasn’t’
Heath and Sandra Blake began feeling sick in February 2018 with symptoms including diarrhea. Sandra was seen at home by a general practitioner and admitted to North Tees Hospital in mid-February. She two weeks later at age 68.

Heath said Sandra was his best friend and the family still can’t believe she is no longer with them.

“It may be almost two years on from her death but we still miss her terribly. What makes it harder is not knowing the full picture as to why she died. While time may have moved on our family hasn’t because of this. We know nothing can ever bring Sandra back but we just want to find out what caused her death and whether anything could have been done to prevent it.”

Chapman and Sons has since closed. Criminal charges against the business as well its directors, were dropped earlier this year.

Finding answers
Graham was a former coach for Sunderland Football Club. The 66-year-old was found dead at his home in Shotton Colliery, in February 2018.

Graham’s daughter, Paula Conway, said the family members want to honor their father’s memory by establishing what happened.

“When Dad starting complaining he was unwell we could tell he was a bit under the weather but we never thought that a few days later he would die. We are still shocked about what has happened and how quickly his condition deteriorated. He has left a huge hole in all our lives. Our family have so many questions about his death.”

The families of Blake and Graham, from Blackhall Colliery and Shotton Colliery, asked public health lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate and get answers as to how the two died.

Jatinder Paul, senior associate solicitor, said the start of the inquest process is a major milestone in being able to help the families.

“Sandra’s and Stewart’s deaths have had a profound effect on the families, and more than 18 months on they remain heart-broken at their loss. Understandably Sandra’s and Stewart’s families have a number of concerns about how they fell ill. We are determined to provide them with the answers they deserve,” Paul said.

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