Widow Seeks Answers From Husband’s Former Employers Following His Death

Maintenance Engineer Died From Mesothelioma After Asbestos Exposure


The widow of a maintenance engineer who died from an asbestos-related cancer is appealing for his former colleagues to help expert lawyers to investigate whether more could have been done by his employers to protect him from the deadly dust. 

John Devine, from Baildon, Shipley, West Yorkshire, died aged 64 just two months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos-related cancer affecting the lining of the lungs which he believed was as a result of exposure to harmful dust and fibres four decades ago.

His widow Patricia, 65 instructed industrial Illness experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell to investigate where he was exposed to asbestos and why he wasn’t provided with adequate safety equipment to protect him during his employment at various companies. 

John left school and went to work for James Robinson & Co, in Huddersfield from 1964 to 1970 as an apprentice fitter. He later worked as an unclassified engineer for Shell Tankers in the Merchant Navy from 1970 to approximately 1972. 

Between 1972 and 1975 John worked for Hopkinson Valves based on Blacker Road in Huddersfield where he was an engineer responsible for carrying out routine maintenance at the factory and several power stations in the area where asbestos was present.

Nicola Handley, an industrial disease specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office representing him, said: “We believe John was substantially exposed to asbestos whilst working for the James Robinson & Co, Hopkinsons Valves and Shell Tankers in the Merchant Navy.

“We are now continuing his fight for justice with Patricia to find out why he was exposed to asbestos.   We urge any of John’s former colleagues to come forward to help us with the investigation with any information about the working conditions and his employment.

“Regrettably, insurers still require proof of employment before they will deal with claims and we are therefore required to go to great lengths to obtain corroborative evidence of employment despite the fact that John provided a written statement during his lifetime detailing where and when he was exposed to asbestos.  We therefore require help from his former colleagues to help show that he was employed by these firms.

“Mesothelioma is incurable and the debilitating symptoms can only be treated temporarily. The effects of working with asbestos often don’t occur until decades later, and John’s family have suffered terribly simply because he wasn’t adequately protected at work.

“The dangers and risks from exposure to asbestos dust were known by companies from at least the 1950s yet all too often we see workers and their families who have been left devastated decades later because they were not given the correct safety equipment to protect them from exposure.”

Before he died, John recalled that whilst he was employed at James Robinson & Co he was responsible for routine maintenance which involved stripping asbestos lagging from the pipework and boilers. He also recalled that whilst he worked in the Merchant Navy he would be working in the engine rooms of ships which contained extensive networks of pipework lagged with asbestos.

John started to experience symptoms in 2012, when he was still working as a Production Technician at Sulzer. He found it difficult to carry out his job and struggled to do simple tasks such as climbing a ladder. He went to his local GP and was referred to Bradford Royal Infirmary in December for an x-ray and tests and in February 2013 where he was diagnosed with the terminal condition mesothelioma.

Patricia who was married to John for over 35 years and have two daughters and four grandchildren, said: “John’s condition deteriorated rapidly over the months after his diagnosis and he had to spend a week in a hospice because he was in so much pain and needed constant care from the nurses. It was heartbreaking to see him suffer; and as a family we felt helpless.

“John was still working at the time of his diagnosis and we were both looking forward to spending our retirement years together. I am still trying to come to terms with his death and the fact that we will not be growing old together as we had planned.

“It has been difficult to come to terms with the fact that John was exposed to asbestos decades ago simply by going to work. When his illness kicked in it was so rapid that we barely had time to come to terms with it. It is so important that we now find the answers to how this happened.”

Anyone who knew or worked with John and who can provide any information is asked to contact Nicola Handley at Irwin Mitchell on 0113 220 6233 or email nicola.handley@irwinmitchell.com.