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Elaine has highlighted one of the great "mysteries" of the course of FMD in the so-called "tail".

Plotting IPs with dates does seem to be a key means of trying to see behind events.

In the South Eden area of Cumbria, onset was delayed relative to north of Penrith by about 6 weeks, despite a major trunk road (A66) running through the area. It first appeared on 5th April at Little Musgrave, local information indicating that the farmer involved had been hauling fuel to the burning sites in North Cumbria. That caused a major outcry against his carelessness. There quickly followed a cluster of IPs around Brough and conterminous and dangerous contact killings.

Testing was done, but results only emerged about 2 months after the slaughter.

Most of the stock culled proved not to have been infected. There followed a lull of about 12 weeks with only 5 IPs in the area until early July, shortly after first-hand accounts indicated that infected body parts were being sold from white vans around the area. This was a short while after one such van had been stopped by police in the Settle area. A report on this appeared in the Times, after a bag of such organs had been found outside a chip shop in Kirkby Stephen, and then disappeared when the proprietor went to phone the police.

Through July and August cullings spread like wildfire through the CA17 postal area, to the extent that there is no living stock in Upper Eden, except for one herd of Friesians and about a dozen sheep in an area surrounded by IPs. I do not believe in miracles to explain such escapes from DEFRA and Mr Snowie.

If the virus spreads by wind or on the feet of birds, then there is no escape. But research in the USA and Britain suggests a limit of less than a kilometre for natural dispersion from infected pigs and sheep. The "mystery" is that hotspots in the "tail" appear at large distances from existing areas of infection, and with long delays - that goes for Settle-Clitheroe, Whitby, Thirsk, Upper Eden, Brecon and now Hexham.

It was possible to trace the rapid spread of the disease across Britain in February and March by using information on commercial movements of livestock, with the Borderway Mart in Carlisle being a hub. North Cumbria, being an area with a huge population of overwintering lambs from every point of the compass, unsurprisingly became a holocaust because of the density of animals and the innumerable movements of stock on a more or less daily basis. It is simply not believable that the recent hotspots stem from any "natural" movement of the virus, nor can "accidental" spreading be taken seriously. Massive "jumps" in distance or in time point to deliberate actions

Like Elaine, I am in no position to provide any concrete evidence to explain the latest flare ups - the how's, the who's or the why's - but do smell rotten fish. Every direct participant in this disaster has reason to be circumspect with facts, whether DEFRA, contractors or farmers. It takes only one honest person among them, or from the army personnel who have been involved, to provide verifiable information that can be followed up. The traditional means of blowing the whistle out of conscience, through the press, seems useless.

Another mystery is why no investigative journalist has burrowed into the welter of dissimulation that surrounds Britain's largest peace-time disaster of the last century. Warmwell's excellent record of preserving anonymity and its wide readership suggests that it is the best vehicle for such admissions, and perhaps for being the focus for enquiry by the public.

Steve, Cumbria

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