Devastated Widow Of Former Croydon Painter And Decorator Appealing For Help After Mesothelioma Death

Specialist Workplace Illness Lawyers Investigating Exposure


Andrew Robinson, Press Officer | 0113 218 6463
The heartbroken widow of a former painter and decorator who died from mesothelioma – an asbestos-related cancer – just two days after his diagnosis is appealing to his former work colleagues for help as she vows to secure justice for his death.
Harry Russell, from Addiscombe in Croydon, died at the age of 82 in August 2013 from the disease, which his family believes was caused by his exposure to asbestos while he was employed by Croydon Council.
His wife, Gwen, 79, and his two children, Sharon and Gary, have now instructed industrial disease experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the working conditions during his time as a painter and decorator for the local council.
During his time working for Croydon Council, between 1964 and 1995, he painted a number of public buildings including schools, old peoples' homes and children’s homes. 
His family told lawyers at Irwin Mitchell that they remember him talking about working on the cooling towers at Taberner House, the council’s main offices.
Gwen, who was married to Harry for 58 years, hopes that his former workmates will come forward and provide details to the legal team concerning the measures that were put in place to protect workers from inhaling asbestos dust and fibres.
Sarah Wolf, an expert industrial-disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, who is representing the family, said: “The dangers of asbestos have been known for a long time, but sadly we continue to see examples where employers have failed to take responsibility for the safety of their workers.
“In this case, Harry paid the ultimate price for going to work every day to provide for his family, and suffered a significant amount of pain and distress in the final months of his life.
“We hope that his former workmates will come forward and provide information on how and where he was exposed to asbestos during his work, and what measures, if any, were put in place to prevent tradespeople working for Croydon Council from inhaling the deadly substance.
Harry’s daughter Sharon, 56, said: “Our whole family are devastated by Dad’s death. He was a very active man and spent a lot of time in the garden and at his allotment, giving family, friends and neighbours the fresh produce he grew.
“He was a dedicated family man. He did everything for my mum and was supportive to both me and my brother, Gary. Mum is absolutely devastated by his loss as they were soulmates and were never apart for 58 years.
“Dad was fit and active throughout his life, which made it absolutely heart-breaking for us all to watch him deteriorate so quickly and suffer the pain and distress he did in the final months of his life. 
“We are trying to do everything we can for mum and I have given up my  career as  PA to take care of her. There’s no amount of money that could compensate for Dad’s loss, but we want those who were responsible for his exposure to asbestos to be held to account for their lack of preventative measures, and for mesothelioma to be highlighted to employers and workers alike, so no more families need to go through what we have.
“We are hoping that Dad’s former colleagues will come forward and help to provide the crucial information our legal team at Irwin Mitchell need to ensure justice is done.”
Gwen added: “I am still coming to terms with the loss of Harry, but I am determined to get justice for him and make sure those responsible for failing to protect him are held to account.”
Anyone who worked with Harry at Croydon Council between 1964 and 1995 and has information on the working conditions is asked to contact Sarah Wolf on 0207 421 3968 or email