Information Sought On Woolworths Branches Following Stockport Mum’s Death From Mesothelioma
The son of a former shop worker from Stockport is appealing to his mum’s old workmates for information on her working life, following her death from asbestos-related cancer.
Gillian Jepson, formerly known as Gillian Archer, 78, from Hazelgrove, Stockport, died from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos, often decades previously.
Following her diagnosis, the mum-of-2 received palliative treatment under the care of the specialist team at Wythenshaw hospital. However, there is no known cure for mesothelioma, and very sadly, Gillian passed away as a result of her diagnosis on 9 August 2022.
Gillian’s son, Scott Jepson, 53, is now searching for answers as to where his mum may have come into contact with asbestos. Ahead of this year’s Workers’ Memorial Day on Friday 28 April, Scott has joined with the asbestos disease specialists at Irwin Mitchell to investigate further.
Before Gillian died, she told Scott that she was exposed to asbestos whilst working at a branch of Woolworths in Manchester. Whilst she worked there, she was asked to dress the shop window with the Christmas display decorations.
One of those decorative items was a carton of fake ‘snow’. Gillian sprayed the fake snow onto the windows, using a snowflake template and making drifts in the corners of the windows, to create a Christmassy scene for shoppers to enjoy. Gillian did not know, until much later, that the product she was given was actually made of asbestos flakes.
Scott is now appealing for any of Gillian’s old workmates to come forward with information on the working conditions and the products that she would have used during her time employed by Woolworths.
They are keen to trace anyone who worked alongside Gillian at Woolworths stores in Manchester, from 1961 to 1962.
Expert Opinion“Gillian’s mesothelioma diagnosis and death is yet again another reminder of the terrible legacy asbestos has left behind.
“Understandably Scott and the rest of the family are devastated by what’s happened and have a number of questions as to how Gillian was exposed to the asbestos that claimed her life.
“While many people may associate asbestos with heavy industry its use was much more insidious and widespread, with many public buildings such as schools, hospitals, offices and shops containing the material. Its use as fake ‘snow’ is now well known, most famously being used to recreate snowy scenes in movies such as ‘The Wizard of Oz’ starring Judy Garland and Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’.
“As part of our investigations we’re keen to hear from anyone who worked with Gillian or has information about the products she may have used. While nothing can make up for her death such detail could be key to at least providing Gillian’s family with the answers they deserve.” Helen Tomlin - Senior Associate Solicitor
On leaving school aged 15 in 1961, Gillian originally worked as a seamstress and she continued to enjoy sewing as a hobby throughout her life.
She had a varied working life; as well as working in various retail environments, in the latter part of her working life she also trained as an auxiliary nurse at Stepping Hill hospital, and worked as a carer at Marpledale Nursing Home.
Gillian retired aged 60. Away from work, she spent a lot of time with her partner, who died just six weeks before Gillian. The couple regularly went on holiday to Turkey and enjoyed weekends away in Blackpool.
Gillian also loved her local area, going out every day, to talk to people and browse the local market. She occasionally volunteered on a local fruit and veg stall which allowed her to meet and talk to new people.
Gillian was a very independent woman and remained fit and active throughout her life. She started suffering with symptoms of breathlessness in the latter part of 2019. Following tests, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma in December 2019, but decided to wait until after Christmas to tell her family.
Two sessions of chemotherapy followed, but the side effects proved so difficult to manage that she stopped the treatment. Gillian died from mesothelioma in August 2022.
Scott said: “Mum was a fiercely independent woman, fit, strong and very sociable. Even now it’s so hard to accept she is gone.
“Despite being diagnosed with cancer, the fact she waited until January to tell the family so it wouldn’t ruin Christmas, tells you what a caring person she was. All her working life reflected her personality and how much she enjoyed being around people.
“She was well-known locally and a familiar face at the market. I’m proud to be the son of such an amazing mum.
“She didn’t deserve to have her final days ruined by this terrible illness. We were devastated when she stopped chemotherapy, but the treatment made her so ill, she felt she had no choice. Her argument was that she wanted to enjoy the life she had left without constantly being poorly.
“She did her best to keep her independence and we all pitched in where we could but it was very difficult for all of us to see her decline and in need of help at the end.
“Despite her outgoing personality, mum was an intensely private person and didn’t discuss her working life with the family in detail, so if any of her old workmates could come forward with information, that would be a big help to us.
“For so many reasons, Mum’s death has been very hard to deal with. Although not unexpected, the manner of her death has been very difficult to come to terms with. If anyone can come forward, it will at least provide some answers about how she came to be exposed to asbestos and put the questions we have about it to rest.”
Anyone with information that could help Scott and the family is asked to contact Helen Tomlin at Irwin Mitchell on 0808 2719587 or email email@example.com
Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April remembers those who have died as a result of their employment, and campaigns to improve health and safety standards in the workplace and increase protection for employees.