Devastated Husband Calls for Greater Awareness of Asbestos Risk

Specialist Lawyers Appeal For Co-Workers To Come Forward To Bring Justice


A devastated husband whose wife is believed to have contracted the incurable asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma while working as an accounts clerk at a furniture company says his wife’s tragic death shows that asbestos can affect people in any profession.

His warning came after an inquest into the death of Brenda Foxley, from Dawlish, heard that she regularly visited a factory floor where asbestos lagging was present to deliver wage packets to staff when she worked as an accounts cleric from 1961 to 1967.

The mum-of-two died at Dawlish Hospital in April last year aged 65, just five months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma at the end of 2010.

The Coroner Mr Ian Arrow recorded a verdict of death by industrial disease at the inquest held today at Torquay Coroners Court.

Now Brenda’s distraught husband, Bill, is calling for more awareness of asbestos related diseases and the risks, particularly amongst those whose profession was not directly linked to the deadly substance but could have come into contact with it.

With the help of specialist lawyers at law firm Irwin Mitchell, 72-year-old Bill is appealing to anyone with knowledge of P Leach Productions of Borron Street, Vernon Mill, Stockport and its associated company, Portwood Furniture Limited of the same address, to get in touch with information about how Brenda may have come into contact with asbestos in a bid to bring justice for his wife.

The inquest heard how asbestos lagging was present on steam pipework causing asbestos dust to fall which Brenda regularly came into contact with when visiting the factory floor. The dust was visible in the air and on surfaces and there was no obvious ventilation or extraction equipment.

Brenda was given no training or warnings about the dangers of asbestos or provided with any breathing protection.

Bill, who also worked for the company in the upholsterers department, said: “Brenda was a lovely woman, she was my wife and my best friend. We had been together for 48 years and married for 45 of those.

“I’m urging all other former employees of P Leach Productions to come forward in the hope they can shed further light on asbestos at the company and help bring justice for my wife.

“I think many people believe asbestos only affects those who came into direct contact with it, such as removing it, but as my wife’s case shows, that is not always the case.

“Brenda only had five months after she was diagnosed and she suffered terribly. It was a massive shock and devastated the whole family. Myself and my two children are struggling to come to terms with the fact Brenda is no longer with us.”

The inquest heard Brenda was regularly present when workers were dry sweeping up the grey dust from the asbestos lagged pipes that had gathered on the floor and steam presses.

She had recalled getting grey asbestos dust on her clothing and having to bang her clothes to get rid of it.

Brenda died just five months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth on 1st December 2010 after suffering from chest complaints throughout the year.

Helen Grady, a workplace injury expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office is representing the family. She said: “Even in the 1960s employers knew of the risks associated with asbestos and the dangers of inhaling lethal fibres.

“Mesothelioma is an asbestos related cancer for which there is sadly no cure. Although it can take upwards of 20 years from exposure to onset of the illness, once diagnosed it can be very aggressive and painful.

“In order to help Bill’s fight for justice for his wife, I am particularly keen to hear from co-workers or anyone with knowledge of P Leach Productions and its associated company Portwood Furniture Limited in the 1960s as they may have key information about the presence of asbestos and working practices at these premises.”

Anyone who can help with any information is asked to contact Helen Grady at Irwin Mitchell on 0370 1500 100 or email

If you or a loved one has been affected by an asbestos related illness, our solicitors can help you to claim compensation. See our Asbestos Claims page for more information.