Man Seeks Answers After Asbestos Kills Two Generations Of Same Family

Appeal Launched For Witnesses To Help Case


A Leeds man whose wife and father-in-law both died from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma is appealing for his father-in-law’s former colleagues to come forward to help his quest to find out why they were exposed to asbestos.

Robert Stead, from Cleckheaton, near Leeds, died in April 1980 aged 73. He worked as a packer at the British Belting & Asbestos factory in the city from 1944 until 1970, and it is believed that he may have been exposed to asbestos fibres during this work.

His daughter, Pauline Lee, died aged 66 in November 2010, also as a result of mesothelioma – a cancer which develops after exposure to asbestos.

Although Mrs Lee never worked with asbestos, she did do some summer employment in the offices at BBA, it is believed that she may have been exposed to dust and fibres while playing with her father or washing his clothes. As a child Mrs Lee used to play with her father as soon as he came in from work, and she also spent time with her mother whilst she shook off his overalls before washing.

Experts in the workplace illness team at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors are now investigating conditions at the British Belting & Asbestos factory on behalf of the family, and are looking for former employees at the factory to come forward to help provide information.

Mrs Lee’s widower, Christopher Lee, said: “When Robert passed away our entire family was devastated, but we never expected that 30 years on this would all be brought back again.

“For the condition to then take his daughter, my wife, who had never so much as stepped foot in the factory, is just horrendous. I know Robert would be absolutely heartbroken to know that in his efforts to work and provide for his family, he had passed on a lethal condition which would eventually kill his daughter.

“As mesothelioma often doesn’t take effect until decades after exposure, there was nothing he could have done to prevent it. He was never warned of the dangers of his working environment, nor was he provided with any protective equipment.

“We just want to get to the bottom of why he was exposed to asbestos. Our family has been torn apart because of this and if anyone has any information on the working conditions I urge them to contact Irwin Mitchell.”

Ian Toft, an asbestos related illness specialist at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive cancer which causes a great deal of suffering to its victims, and unfortunately it still remains incurable.

“We are seeing more and more people being affected who have not worked directly with asbestos, such as in this case with Pauline. Exposure to asbestos has resulted in the death of not only the employee but also his daughter, who merely spent time at home with her father. This case is truly tragic.

“It can take up to 40 years after exposure for asbestos related illness to develop so it can be hard to track down colleagues and find out about the nature of the working conditions when exposure to asbestos took place.

“If anybody thinks they may be able to help I ask them to please contact me immediately. Our team has a great deal of experience in helping victims of asbestos exposure, and we hope we can do the same for Pauline and Robert’s family.”

Anyone who is able to help should contact Ian Toft at or on 0370 1500 100.