Former Alnwick Post Office Worker Seeks Ex-Colleagues In Battle For Justice

Irwin Mitchell Launch Appeal To Help Discover How 91-Year-Old was Exposed To Deadly Asbestos Dust


A former post office worker who has been diagnosed with the incurable asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma is appealing for his ex-colleagues to help expert lawyers investigate how he was allowed to come into contact with the deadly dust.

John William Deeble, of Alnwick in Northumberland, returned to his home town to work for the Post Office after a five year stint in the Royal Navy as a radio mechanic.

The 91-year-old believes he was exposed to asbestos while working as a postal officer at the Fenkle Street Post Office branch in Alnwick from 1946 to 1966. John says when the branch was refurbished in the 1960s the ceilings in the corridors were removed uncovering the pipe work, which was stripped of its asbestos lagging before being replaced.

John has now asked industrial illness experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell to help as he appeals to his former colleagues to get in touch as they may hold vital information about why he was exposed to asbestos.

He said: “I spent most of my time at the Alnwick Post Office working in what we called the ‘writing room’ or the clerical office with the cashier, accounts clerk, the general correspondence clerk and the worker responsible for supplying stamps to sub post offices.

“I believe I was exposed to asbestos dust when the post office underwent major refurbishment in the early 1960s. The work took a couple of months and involved removing the ceilings in the building, which exposed the asbestos-covered pipes. Contractors working on scaffold platforms hacked off asbestos from the pipes in corridors where I would walk through three or four times a day.

“It was dusty work and a difficult environment for regular employees like me to work in. I was never warned about the dangers of the dust nor was I ever given any protective clothing or a mask to wear while the refurbishment was carried out.”

Roger Maddocks, a partner and industrial disease expert at Irwin Mitchell, is representing John in his bid for justice.

He said: “Sadly, John is one of more than 2,000 people diagnosed with mesothelioma every year and he is still coming to terms with the terrible news that he is suffering from an incurable asbestos-related cancer. It’s a devastating illness which can be very distressing for the victims and their families.

“To help John get to the bottom of why he was exposed to asbestos we would like to hear from anyone who worked at the Alnwick Post Office in Northumberland in the 1960s, who can help shed light on the working conditions he endured.”

John, who has been married to his wife Joan for 64 years, started to develop symptoms of mesothelioma in 2011- 20 years after he retired. He visited his GP in early March 2012 after feeling lethargic, breathless and losing weigh rapidly. He was then referred to a specialist at Wansbeck Hospital with follow-up treatment at Tyneside Hospital, where he endured an operation to drain fluid from his lungs.

He was finally diagnosed with mesothelioma – an incurable lung disease linked to asbestos exposure – in June this year.

John, who has one surviving son called Peter and a grandchild from his oldest son David who sadly died of a heart attack in 1992, added: “Before I started to feel unwell because of the mesothelioma I thought I was in excellent health for my age. Until my wife also became ill in 2011 we walked regularly, often for three or four miles, and I gave up smoking in 1980.

“I used to enjoy doing all the gardening and decorating at home but since my I started to feel unwell I have to rely on help from my friends and neighbours to cut the grass and weed my plants.

“Joan’s illness also means that I’ve taken on most of the household chores, such a cooking, cleaning, washing and shopping. I’m sad and frustrated that I don’t have the energy to look after her and our home as I’d like because of my illness. My son Peter is disabled and he and his wife Aileen help and provide support.

“It’s devastating to think it could have been prevented if my employers had been aware of the dangers of asbestos.

“I hope my ex-colleagues come forward to help Irwin Mitchell investigate my case and so that it raises awareness of the how this deadly disease is affecting so many people like me.”

Anybody who believes they may be able to help should contact Roger Maddocks at Irwin Mitchell on 0191 279 0095 or email