A MARTLEY woman one of the key victims of the infected blood scandal says she doubts the real truth of the scandal will come out a new inquiry.

Colette Wintle, who has haemophilia, was infected with hepatitis C twice, and hepatitis B in hospitals in Scotland, Kent and London in the 1970s and 80s. She is a key participant in the new Infected Blood Inquiry inquiry that started last week - the first UK-wide public inquiry able to compel witnesses to testify.

"I was first infected in Scotland when I was 17 when I had a routine operation to remove my tonsils," Mrs Wintle said.

"Post operation I lost a substantial amount of blood and they give me blood clotting products. Those products - and I didn't find out till 26 years later - were American-sourced, and came from prisoners who had sold their blood.

"It was done on purpose, they treated us like guinea pigs. It's the biggest scandal in the history of the NHS."

About 5,000 people with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders are believed to have been infected with HIV and hepatitis viruses over a period of more than 20 years - around half having since died. Mrs Wintle says she lost her career in nursing and valuable time with her husband Steve and daughter Rebekah due to her symptoms, which includes massive fatigue, skin itching, being in constant pain including her liver and muscle ache.

"I get total insomnia -I can't have a good night sleep, and haven't done for years," the 59-year-old said.

"It is a miracle I'm still alive, but I'm still here out of sheer determination to get justice. It has been 25 years of campaigning. I am veteran of two inquiries, one a whitewash. I am cynical that the truth will come out. It has been battle at every turn, I would describe it as a rotten onion - every time you peal a layer back you find another rotten layer."

The Government said sorry at the inquiry which is to probe the treatment of those given the blood products. But Mrs Wintle said she was not convinced by the apology, pointing out she has never received a penny of compensation from the government, despite her life-long battle.

"The apology they keep saying is for something that shouldn't have happened - but what they don't say is 'we know it's is our wrongdoing, so we will compensate'," she added.

Chairman of the inquiry, retired judge Sir Brian Langstaff, said at the hearing that the estimated number of infected could reach above 25,000. The inquiry will continue next year, when Mrs Wintle will give evidence.