OLYMPIC champion swimmer Rebecca Adlington officially launched the new headquarters of an international charity based in Malton which helps victims of the brain disease encephalitis.

Rebecca, a double Olympic gold-medal champion and OBE, was joined by actor Mathew Bose, who played drag queen Paul Lambert in the TV soap Emmerdale.

The pair are both ambassadors for the Encephalitis Society, which is the only resource of its kind in the world, and has recently moved from Saville Street to Castlegate.

Rebecca said she knew from personal experience how the illness affected people and their families.

She said: “My sister Laura suffered from it a few years ago and when the family were first told by doctors none of us had heard of encephalitis or knew where to get more information about it.

“When you are given news like this it can be overwhelming but as soon as we were put in touch with the Encephalitis Society they were so helpful and offered brilliant support.”

Rebecca, who at the weekend was confirmed as part of Team GB for this summer’s Olympics, said the work of the society was vital. Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain, usually caused by infection, which strikes adults and children alike.

Mathew said the work of the society was close to his heart because he had a school friend who contracted the disease in 2006.

Rebecca and Mathew were joined by the Society’s President, Professor Barbara Wilson, and the chairman of their Professional Panel, Professor Tom Solomon.