This is the first part in a series on the sudden death of Christopher Coulter. Part two can be found here.
On a Sunday morning just before Christmas, the 18th December, 1994, to be exact, the lives of Anne and Harry Coulter of Hillsborough, Northern Ireland, were shattered.Their son, fifteen years old Christopher, was lying, dead, in his bed. The inquest, held the following year at Belfast Coroner’s Court, found that Christopher had died of asphyxiation resulting from a seizure. His parents report that neither Christopher nor anyone in his family have a history of epilepsy. Today, almost twenty-four years to the day the Coulter’s lost Christopher, a second inquest into their child’s sudden and unexpected death is, once again, due to start.
Now, if all this seems familiar, it should. Back in February 2012, when this blog was a lot more active, OK, active, I wrote that the second inquest was, then, expected to begin. It didn’t. Marcel Kinsbourne, the “vaccine expert” hired by lawyers for the Coulter family, whose testimony and supposed expertise were the grounds for ordering this second examination into Christopher’s death, couldn’t fit it into his schedule. What proceeded is a litany of delays, frustrations and road blocks that serve as testament to the tenacity of Anne Coulter, Christopher’s mother, that, twenty-four years later, her son’s death is to be re-examined.
The Coulters are on a quest for someone to take responsibility for their son’s death, convinced the MR (measles and rubella) vaccine Christopher received at his high school ten days earlier as part of a nationwide catch up program, triggered the child’s first and fatal seizure. Speaking to thedetail.tv in March 2011, Anne Coulter said,
I have always known what killed Christopher and fear that people are just trying to cover this up. I think that children are being damaged by vaccines being pumped into their bodies which they cannot cope with.
A belief no doubt bolstered by their expert witness, Kinsbourne, a retired paediatric neurologist who, in June 2007, testified in the US vaccine court’s Omnibus Autism Proceeding that vaccine strain measles travels to the brain causing autism. Offering a certainty that no one else will, or can, in his report on Christopher’s death, Kinsbourne is unequivocal:
…on the balance of probabilities Christopher’s seizure and death were caused by the MR vaccination. Furthermore, there is no medically reasonable evidence of an alternative causation.
A Time Line of Events
So, what has been going on in Christopher Coulter’s case for the last two decades plus? I’ve compiled a brief timeline. Over the next few days, I will explore some of the issues it throws up including vaccine injury compensation in the UK and Northern Ireland (spoiler: it’s a disgrace), expert witnesses and vaccine safety among other things.
(approx) 8th December 1994
MR vaccine administered at school.
Sunday morning, 18th December
Christopher’s father Harry, goes to wake his son but finds him dead in bed.
Professor (now Dame) Ingrid Allen of the Institute of Pathology at Queen’s College, Belfast, writes to the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control to query whether the batch of MR vaccine Christopher and another student at his school who’d also suffered a first seizure a few days before Christopher died was responsible for an unusual number of “unexplained complications.” Dr David Salisbury, Director of Immunisations at the then Department of Health, DoH, (now the Department of Health and Social Care) replied there had not been.
Christopher’s GP submits a report to the The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) of Christopher’s potential reaction to the MR vaccine via the Yellow Card reporting system (then not taking submissions from the public).
The Coulter family’s claim for compensation from the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme is rejected by a tribunal in London on a split decision with one of the three-strong presiding panel in favour of awarding compensation.
Friday, 7th February 2012
– NI Attorney General, John Larkin QC, orders second inquest under Section 14 of the Coroner’s Act 1959.
– Kinsbourne is described by family’s solicitor Pádraig Ó Muirigh as a “vaccine expert”.
– Coroner, Suzanne Anderson provisionally reschedules second inquest for five months ahead (April/May 2014) as Kinsbourne has “other commitments” and the family deems his presence preferable to his testifying via video link.
– The coroner requests all of the -Christopher’s medical notes as they weren’t submitted at the 1995 inquest.
17th June 2013
Case not heard.
19th November 2013
Case not heard.
Family could not secure “exceptional funding,” from the Legal Aid board.
February 2015 – April 2016
“Another huge delay marked by nothing in terms of concrete action,” Mr Justice McCloskey, high court judge due to preside over the new inquest in 2018.
First preliminary hearing scheduled.
26th November 2018
Case scheduled to be heard.
Should there be any updates on what should be the start of the second inquest into Christopher Coulter’s death, I will, of course, write about them. In addition, I will look at the first inquest in a little more detail and the grounds on which a second was granted and the obstacles the family has faced in getting their son’s case reconsidered as directed.
Finally, I have come back to blogging (with more than a little trepidation) because I believe Christopher Coulter’s case, whatever its outcome, could have vast implications for the perception of the MMR vaccine although he never received it. Personally, I have huge admiration for Christopher’s family, his mother, Anne Coulter, in particular, and I hope that these proceedings reach a finality that brings her peace. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child and hope I never will. My sympathies go out to all who love Christopher for their loss.
featured image: Gates of Hillsborough Castle, Wiki Commons.