The woman who can SMELL Parkinson’s

Mrs Milne noticed a ‘musky, greasy sort of odour’ in her husband Les (pictured). He was diagnosed a decade later and died in 2015 aged 65

Joy and Les Milne were childhood sweethearts who started dating at just 16.

When they reached their mid-30s, Mrs Milne – then a nurse – noticed a change in her husband’s odour.

‘He began to smell unpleasant to me and although we always were a loving couple, I was always aware of it,’ she said.

Mrs Milne described it as ‘musky, greasy sort of odour’, and would nag her husband to shower and brush his teeth more.

It was a decade later, at the age of 45, that Mr Milne was finally diagnosed with Parkinson’s after battling the tell-tale tremors, as well as fatigue and impotence.

Around the time of his diagnosis, Mr Milne’s personality changed, with the once gentle doctor lashing out at his wife on two occasions, once bruising her face. 

‘As it was happening, his eyes looked blank, like he had no idea what he was doing,’ Mrs Milne said. 

Over the next 20 years, the former swimmer and water-polo player became dependent on a walking frame.

He was even forced to retire from his job as a consultant anaesthetist due to his tremors and reduced concentration. 

The couple (pictured on their wedding day) started dating at just 16 years old

The couple (pictured on their wedding day) started dating at just 16 years old

In 2005, the couple moved back from Cheshire to their native Perth, Scotland, where Mrs Milne made the connection between Parkinson’s and her husband’s odour while accompanying him to a support group.

‘After we left I said to Les: ‘The people with Parkinson’s in that room smelt the same as you’,’ Mrs Milne said.

In 2010 she contacted the Parkinson’s researcher Tilo Kunath, of Edinburgh University, who put her skills to the test a year later.

After asking 12 volunteers to wear a T-shirt for 24 hours, Mrs Milne correctly identified the disease status of 11 of them – with the only one she got wrong being diagnosed the following year.

Shortly after, Mr Milne lost his battle with Parkinson’s in 2015 aged 65. 

Mrs Milne has since been keeping to her husband’s dying wish of assisting research into the ‘smell of Parkinson’s.

But Parkinson’s is not the only disease Mrs Milne can detect.

As a student nurse, she claims spotted those with gallstones before they were diagnosed.

And while training as a midwife, she could tell whether a woman smoked or had diabetes by the scent of her placenta.