Family And Lawyers Appeal For Information About Working Conditions At Royal London Docks
A family is appealing for help to establish whether a mum’s asbestos cancer death was caused by her washing her ex-husband’s work clothes.
Joan Morris, 83, from Basildon, died from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung linked to exposure to asbestos, often decades previously.
Following her death, her family, including husband William Morris, 82, instructed specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her illness and establish how she may have come into contact with the substance.
Before she died, Joan told William that she used to wash the work clothes of her previous husband Donald Merrells every evening. The clothes were caked in white dust which she believed could be asbestos.
William has now joined with the legal team in appealing for anyone who may have worked at the Royal London Docks where Donald was employed between 1955 and 1968.
The team is particularly keen to trace anyone who worked for the same employer as Donald - the National Dock Labour Board - or like Donald, was employed as a tally clerk during the period.
Expert Opinion“While we’re involved in many cases where individuals have been exposed to asbestos in industrial environments, we’re also seeing a number where people have come into direct contact with it through activities like washing clothes.
“Joan’s death is a reminder of the dangers still posed by asbestos and while nothing can bring her back, we’re determined to help William find the answers concerning her exposure to asbestos.
“Joan was able to give William some details of her ex-husband’s work history, but we would be grateful to anyone who can come forward and help us build a more complete picture of his working conditions.
“Any information could prove vital to the investigation and helping Joan’s family have some form of closure.” Satpal Singh - Senior Associate
Born in 1933, Joan married Donald Merrells in 1962 and the couple had two children together, Louise Merrells, 54 and Tracie Sharkey, 51. The couple divorced in 1977 and Joan married William in 1981. Joan enjoyed being creative. She loved drawing, painting and played the organ.
Employed by the Port of London Authority, later the National Dock Labour Board, Joan’s ex-husband Donald worked at the Royal London Docks as an ocean shipping tally clerk between 1955 and 1968.
During this time, Donald worked on the quayside and in ships’ holds, measuring the cargo on board and as it came off, ‘tallying up’ the bags or cases as they were loaded or unloaded.
Joan told William that her ex-husband’s work involved the loading and unloading of asbestos and asbestos boards in hessian bags. The bags split frequently, covering Donald in dust.
At the end of each day, Joan would shake and then wash Donald’s clothes to remove the dust, which by this stage was caked onto his clothes and created clouds of dust.
Joan began to experience breathlessness and unexplained weight loss in August 2016. A visit to her GP, followed by a biopsy led to a mesothelioma diagnosis in November 2016. She died in March 2017.
Speaking on behalf of the family, William said: “It was terrible for me and the whole family to see the way Joan suffered at the end. She had often remarked how she used to wash Donald’s clothes and how they would be covered in dust, but neither of us really thought much about it until the doctors said mesothelioma was linked to asbestos exposure.
“Donald wore his own clothes to work and wasn’t given overalls to wear, so at the time, there was little choice but for Joan to sort and clean what were Donald’s own clothing.
“The diagnosis was a real shock to Joan, myself and the children. She had always been so fit and well up to that final year. She was a wonderful wife and mother and didn’t deserve to have her life cut short in this way.
“If anyone out there worked on the docks with Donald or worked as a tally clerk during that period it would be a real help if they could come forward. Any answers they can give us would help us get to the truth of what happened and mean a lot to me now Joan is not here to ask for herself.”
Anyone with information that could help William is asked to contact Jack Konda at Irwin Mitchell on 07894496545 and Jack.Konda@IrwinMitchell.com