Details Sought On Dagenham And Haverhill Companies
The sons of an Essex woman who died from asbestos-related cancer are making a heartfelt plea to her former workmates for information to help establish how she fell ill.
Rita Steven (formerly Rita Dungate), from Haverhill, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lining of the lungs most commonly associated with exposure to asbestos, often decades previously.
She died around four months later, aged 77.
Prior to Rita’s death in December, she instructed asbestos-related disease experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her illness and whether she could have been exposed to asbestos at work. Her sons, Perry, Liam, Todd and Niki are now continuing the investigation alongside her legal team and are appealing for details from their mum’s former colleagues which may help establish where her exposure occurred.
In particular, they are seeking information on the conditions Rita faced while employed by Reynolds Motors in Dagenham, and both Mansols and Pyes in Haverhill, Suffolk.
Expert Opinion“Rita’s family, in particular Perry, Liam, Todd and Niki, are struggling to come to terms with losing their mum just four months after her diagnosis.
Mesothelioma is a particularly unpleasant disease and Rita’s case is a stark reminder of the terrible legacy left behind by asbestos.
Rita’s sons continue to have questions over how their mum developed the illness that claimed her life, and we’re determined to help provide them with the answers.
If anyone has any information on the working conditions Rita faced while employed by any of the aforementioned companies, please get in touch. Any detail, no matter how small, could be vital to the investigation.”
Sylvia Phillips - Solicitor
Rita left school at the age of 15 and began working for Reynolds Motors in Dagenham in Easter 1959. It was a factory premises where the spare parts were made for Ford vehicles. Rita was employed there for a year, monitoring stock numbers. She told her legal team that she believed the parts being manufactured and sold contained asbestos, and as she worked in the same factory that the manufacturing took place, she would breathe in the asbestos fibres in the air.
In 1967, she got an evening job at Mansols on Holland Road in Haverhill where she worked with kilns producing small preforms which were glass shapes used as scientific and medical instruments. She believed the kiln trays and linings, which needed to be heatproof, contained asbestos and the fibres would rub off into the air, which she inhaled.
Around 1970, she started working for Pyes on Colne Valley Road in Haverhill, which manufactured telephones. Rita was responsible for soldering components on to the circuit board which was thought to contain asbestos.
Rita developed a cough around the end of 2019. Chest x-rays came back fine, but she collapsed in June 2021 and taken to hospital. She was found to have pneumonia and fluid was drained from her lungs.
She subsequently underwent a biopsy in early August 2021 and was diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Rita moved in with her son Perry and daughter-in-law Lisa who became her main carer prior to her death in December.
Perry said: “It was awful to watch mum deteriorate the way she did, particularly as she had always been so active and independent.
“When she fell ill, we thought it was maybe a chest infection. We never once thought it would be cancer, and we only got four months with her after she was diagnosed. It broke our hearts.
“Mum was looking into whether her working conditions could have been to blame for her illness and we’re determined to get the answers she desperately sought before she died so we can honour her memory.
“We would therefore be grateful if anyone with information would come forward and help us.”
Anyone with information that may assist with this case is asked to contact Sylvia Phillips on 01223 791867 or Sylvia.Phillips@irwinmitchell.com.