Families say they are still seeking answers ahead of inquest into deaths linked to salmonella outbreak
The families of two people whose deaths were linked to a salmonella outbreak have paid tribute to their loved ones ahead of an inquest into their deaths.
Stewart Graham and Sandra Blake died in February 2018 and tests later confirmed they both had salmonella.
Their grieving families have spoken out for the first time as they hope an inquest into their deaths will provide them with answers.
Former Sunderland Football Club coach, Stewart Graham, 66, was sadly found dead in his home in Shotton Colliery, on February 21, 2018.
The father-of-five, who coached England and Manchester City captain Steph Houghton, had began complaining to his family that he was feeling unwell in the days before his death.
Tests found he had salmonella.
Around the same time that Stewart Graham fell ill, a couple from Blackhall Colliery - Heath and Sandra Blake - also began to feel unwell, with similar symptoms including sickness and diarrhoea.
Sandra, a 68-year-old retired council-worker died two weeks after being admitted to North Tees Hospital on February 14.
Tests revealed the married couple, who have two daughters, both had salmonella like Stewart Graham.
Public Health England said there were 19 confirmed cases of salmonella and three suspected cases in East Durham and Hartlepool in early 2018.
A pre-inquest review hearing into the pair’s deaths is due to take place at Teesside Coroner’s Court at Middlesbrough Town Hall on Tuesday, December 17.
Mr Graham’s daughter Paula Conway, 44, said the family still have many unanswered questions about his death.
She said: “We just want to honour dad’s memory by establishing what happened.
“We were so proud of dad and how he always went out of his way to help others and improve them.
“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 still shocked about what has happened and how quickly his condition deteriorated. Dad was the bedrock of our family and was the one we all turned to for help and advice. He has left a huge hole in all our lives.”
Mr Blake, 71, who survived the illness, paid tribute to his wife ahead of the inquest.
He said: “Sandra was such a wonderful wife, mum and grandmother. She was my best friend and we all still can’t believe she is no longer with us
“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.”
Jatinder Paul, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who is representing the families at the inquest, added: “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.”