Atom blast charity champ dies

Derek and Margaret Payne pictured with Bernie's Bunch during a sponsored Bikeathon.
Derek and Margaret Payne pictured with Bernie's Bunch during a sponsored Bikeathon.

Tributes to hero who raised fortune with rides

A serviceman involved in nuclear testing has died from cancer weeks before judges were to rule if he could claim for exposure to fatal radiation.

Derek Payne, who raised more than £500,000 for chairty, died from prostate cancer aged 74.

His family and campaigners said his death wss the result of being contaminated during atomic tests when the RAF engineer was based on Christmas Island during nuclear tests in 1956.

His wife Margaret said: “He said that they went out to Christmas Island and they didn’t have any special equipment.

“They were told to sit with their back to the explosion and put their hands over their eyes, and when the bomb went off with all the flash they could see all the bones in their fingers.”

Mrs Payne, of Highbury Crescent, Cantley, added her husband’s brother Mike was also on the Indian Ocean island and had to be decontaminated.

The 70-year-old said: “He said one of the sergeants walked past and the Geiger counter started going off.

“He had to be stripped and showered. I think he had to have several showers before he was clear.”

Mr Payne married his wife in 1960 after the pair met at RAF Wyton in Huntingdonshire. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2008.

However, Mrs Payne said throughout their marriage he had to have troublesome moles removed.

The couple, who were also based at RAF Finningley in the 1970s, lost a baby in 1963.

Their daughter Carol has had to endure miscarriages and one of their grandsons was born with one kidney.

Mrs Payne believes both her husband’s problems and her family’s health difficulties are the result of Mr Payne’s time on Christmas Island.

Mr Payne was a member of the The Atomic Veterans’ Claimant Group, campaigners fighting for compensation because of the after effects of the nuclear blasts.

On July 28 it is appealing a court ruling made last year that too much time has elapsed for claimants to be eligible for compensation.

His eldest son, Andrew, is also continuing talks with a solicitor in their fight for compensation.

Mrs Payne said it would be nice to get compensation but she was not sure if the High Court case would be successful.

She added: “Derek was always of the impression he would get some compensation but I was always very doubtful. I think it has gone on too long – all the other countries have been paid out. England hasn’t.”

The father-of-four and grandfather of seven became a devoted fundraiser following the death of his daughter-in-law Judy Philips, aged 21, in 1985.

Mr Payne was chairman of the Doncaster branch of Leukaemia Research and was synonymous with the annual Doncaster bike-a-thon.

The event was held for more than 20 years raising more than £500,000 for the charity. He died in April.

An Atomic Veterans spokesman said: “The Ministry of Defence are trying to hide behind technical arguments so that the real truth is not exposed.”

An MoD spokesman said: “We recognise the invaluable contribution of all service personnel who took part in the nuclear testing programme.

“We are grateful to them for the part they played in ensuring UK security.”

The MoD added that judges had previously ruled there was no evidence to link claimants’ illnesses with nuclear tests.