Former Prison Officer Appeals for Help in Asbestos Investigation

Law Firm Seeks Former Isle of Wight Prison Colleagues To Assist Expert Lawyers

03.12.2013

A former prison officer, diagnosed with the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma, is appealing to any of his former colleagues at Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight to help provide information about his exposure to the deadly dust.

Ronald Samways, known as Ron or Sam to his former colleagues, is 71 and from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. He worked at Parkhurst from 1979 to 2003 and was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in June this year. 

Ron has instructed asbestos-related disease experts at national law firm Irwin Mitchell to help him gain the answers as to how he was exposed to asbestos at work and to secure justice on his behalf.

The diagnosis came as a massive shock to Ron, who lives with his wife Sandra, as he only started to notice symptoms just three months earlier when he became short of breath while walking the dog.

Ron went to see his GP who immediately referred him to hospital where he was admitted with a collapsed lung. Following further tests and biopsies, Ron returned to hospital on 27 June 2013 with his wife and was given the dreadful news that he was suffering from the incurable cancer.

Martyn Hayward, a solicitor at law firm Irwin Mitchell who is representing Ron, said: “The diagnosis of mesothelioma is inevitably devastating news for Ron and his family. We are asking anyone who worked at Parkhurst and has any knowledge of the presence of asbestos at the prison to come forward and help Ron find answers.

“Employers and HM Government in particular have long been aware of the dangers of asbestos so it is completely unacceptable as to why employees were not protected from its appalling effects. Unfortunately, the illnesses associated with the deadly dust can take several decades to develop.”

Parkhurst is very old and refurbishments were ongoing during Ron’s time there. We know that asbestos was discovered at Parkhurst because prison officers were provided with information which referred to asbestos on site. 

During the building refurbishment process, it was one of Ron’s duties to escort the contractors to the various sites around the prison. Ron recalls contractors working at the prison in protective clothing while prison staff went about their daily tasks, just a few feet away, without any protection. He wonders how long the material was there before the authorities took steps to ascertain what state it was in and to remove it. 

In 1990 Ron was appointed as prison fire officer where he remembered handling fire blankets on a regular basis when conducting equipment checks. However, he says no safety equipment such as face masks and protective clothing ever were provided by the prison.

Ron, who is receiving chemotherapy as part of his treatment, commented: “The diagnosis was such a terrible shock to me and Sandra because I had always classed myself as being reasonably fit. Every day, I walked my dogs and had no ill effects until that day in April this year when I began to suffer a shortness of breath.”

“After being diagnosed with an asbestos-related cancer, I started to think back and I remember asbestos being discovered at Parkhurst and then the hazardous material being removed by specialist contractors. I just hope people will come forward and help Irwin Mitchell to investigate the conditions at Parkhurst.”

Anyone who thinks they can help is asked to contact Martyn Hayward 0114 274 4420 at Irwin Mitchell or email Martyn.Hayward@irwinmitchell.com