Family’s Search For Stonemason’s Ex Work Mates After Asbestos Death

Irwin Mitchell Help Oxford Family In Battle For Justice

13.05.2011

The wife of a retired Oxford stonemason, who died from an aggressive asbestos related cancer, is hoping fellow colleagues may have vital clues which will help in her search for justice.

Neil John Woodward from Oxford had worked as a stonemason for many years.

He died on 18 May 2010 at the age of 75 from the asbestos related cancer, mesothelioma. Mr Woodward initially began suffering from a cough and shortness of breath which also affected his ability to walk. His condition was treated as a chest infection and then asthma.

However, it was not until after his death that a post mortem and later inquest revealed he had been suffering from mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest lining caused by exposure to lethal asbestos fibres. In July 2010, HM Coroner for Oxfordshire Mr Nicholas Gardiner recorded a verdict that Mr Woodward had died as a result of an industrial illness.

Now his family are determined to fight for justice and are trying to discover how he became exposed to asbestos.

From 1949 until 1968 Mr Woodward worked for Axtell and Perry, a building company based in Osney Mead, which changed its name to Symm & Company Limited.

During that time, he worked in and around the Oxford area on numerous buildings including St. Peter’s Church, Balliol College, St. John’s College, Trinity College, St. Michael’s Church, Christ Church and other colleges on Oxford High Street. His main role was to fix statues such as decorative gargoyles around the roofs as well as general stonework on buildings, which involved cutting and chipping stone.

Following the asbestos cancer diagnosis, his widow Mrs Veronica Ann Woodward is determined to fight for justice and has launched a search to find Symm & Company Limited workers who may be able to shed light on how her husband came into contact with asbestos.

She said: “My husband devoted his entire working life to his work as a stonemason. We had been married for 52 years and have one daughter and four grandchildren who miss him terribly. His illness came as a huge shock to us as he’d always been a very fit and active man. As his carer for the last three years, I now have a huge hole left in my life.

Kim Barrett, a workplace illness expert with the Birmingham Office of Irwin Mitchell solicitors, who represents Mrs Woodward, said: “We know that Neil died from an industrial disease but in order to obtain justice for his family, I need to hear from people who have information concerning the working practices at sites contracted out by Axtell & Perry Limited between 1949 and 1954 and Symm & Company Limited between 1961 and 1968.

Anyone able to help can contact Kim Barrett at Irwin Mitchell on 0121 214 5407 or email kim.barrett@irwinmitchell.com