Retired Labourer Appeals To Former Colleagues To help Investigate Asbestos Exposure At Shipyard

Irwin Mitchell Launch Appeal to Help Discover How 71-Year-Old Was Exposed To The Deadly Dust


A former shipyard worker suffering from the incurable asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma is appealing for his former work colleagues to help lawyers at Irwin Mitchell investigate why he was allowed to come into contact with the deadly dust which causes the disease.

John Hutchinson, of Fawdon in Newcastle, worked at the Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson shipyard in Wallsend for 10 months from 1966/67 to 1967/68. He was employed by the company as a general labourer and mainly worked in the wood yard, but would be deployed to other areas of the business depending on the company’s workload.

The 71-year-old believes he was exposed to asbestos while helping to renovate ships docked in the yard for repair. While on deck his job entailed helping to sand down the woodwork, which involved working alongside labourers lagging pipes with asbestos.

John has now instructed expert industrial disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office to help him in his battle for justice. Specialist lawyers at the firm are now calling for his former colleagues to help provide information on the working conditions at the two companies.

John, who has been married to his wife Sylvia for 32 years, was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung, linked to asbestos exposure, earlier this year.

He first started to feel breathless and suffered a persistent cough in January and his condition deteriorated so rapidly that he was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle for emergency treatment in February. Doctors discovered blood clots on both lungs and the outer lining of his right lung was filled with fluid.

He was admitted for a few days while doctors treated his condition and further scans confirmed he was suffering from mesothelioma.

He said: “During my time at the Swan Hunter shipyard I was sent to help sand down the decks on board ships in the yard for repair. While we were doing this, laggers were working in close proximity.  

“It was dirty and dusty work but I was never given any protective clothing or a mask to wear, and no one ever warned me about the dangers of asbestos exposure. I was completely oblivious to the effect asbestos could have on my health at the time.”

Isobel Lovett, an industrial disease expert at the Newcastle branch of law firm Irwin Mitchell, also said: “John and his family are still coming to terms with his mesothelioma diagnosis and the effect it is having on his health. Asbestos is the biggest occupational killer of all time. So many people have suffered serious and terminal health problems due to the failure of employers to adequately acknowledge the dangers of working with the material.

“To help John’s family get to the bottom of how and why he was exposed to asbestos we would like to hear from anyone who worked at Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson who can shed light on the working conditions he endured in the late 1960s.”

John added: “This illness has had a devastating impact on my life in such a short period of time. If I talk a lot or do too much I start coughing, I can no longer carry the shopping bags and I can’t even bend down to tie my shoelaces.

“I’d be really grateful if any of my former colleagues could help Irwin Mitchell investigate the conditions at Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson to help my case but I also hope my experience helps raise awareness of the debilitating effect asbestos is having on people like me.”

Anyone with information should contact Isobel Lovett on 0191 2790104 or email