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Widow’s Battle For Justice Following Former Birchfield Harrier Runner’s Asbestos Cancer Death

Search Launched To Find Ex-Workmates


The widow of a former Walsall carpenter, who died after being exposed to asbestos, has launched a search for former colleagues who may be able to help in her battle for justice.

69 year old Fred Chapman, from Pelsall in Walsall, was a member of Birchfield Harriers for nearly thirty years, but was diagnosed with mesothelioma - an incurable asbestos related cancer of the chest – in October 2007. Despite a long-fought battle with the illness he sadly passed away just over two years later on 5 February 2009.

An inquest into Mr Chapman’s death, held on 27th January 2010 before Robin Balmain, HM Coroner for the Black Country, recorded a verdict of industrial disease. Mr Chapman leaves behind his wife of 49 years, Pat, together with two children and three grandchildren.

Now his family are determined to fight for justice and have launched a search to find ex-workmates who may be able to provide additional information regarding working conditions at several Black Country firms.

Mr Chapman was a skilled carpenter and between 1955 and 1975, carried out work for a number of different companies. In 1955 he began a 5 year apprenticeship with Thompson & Arblaster.  All the work done with this company was done within a 5 mile radius of Walsall.  Mr Chapman recalls working on the Blue Coat and Edward Shelley schools, with colleagues including Geoff Eccleston, Ronald Palmer, Eddie Hall and Brian Windsor.

In around 1967 Fred went to work for George Wimpey & Co working to construct the tower block flats in Brownhills, near Anchor Bridge.  He also worked for Beacon Woodcraft between 1971 and 1975, which at that time was based in Long Street, Walsall.

Workplace illness expert, Alida Coates from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, is representing Mr Chapman’s family in their legal battle for justice. She commented: “Mesothelioma is an asbestos related cancer for which there is sadly no cure. Although it can take upwards of 20 years from exposure to onset of the illness, once diagnosed it can be very aggressive and painful. Its effects have been tragic for Fred and also for the family he leaves behind.”

Mr Chapman’s widow, Pat, explained: “Fred was such a hard working man all his life and it is so upsetting to think that it was work which led to this terrible illness.

“Prior to this, he had always been so fit and active. Fred belonged to Birchfield Harriers for nearly thirty years and enjoyed running marathons and half marathons. He also loved judo and weightlifting – in fact anything which kept him fit. That’s why all of this was such a huge shock to the family.
“He first became ill in 2007 when he began to suffer from breathlessness. At first we didn’t think it was anything to worry about but then he started to get chest pains.

“He underwent a series of tests and finally, in October 2007, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. We were both absolutely devastated by the news and his death has left a hole in the lives of our entire family.”

Alida Coates continued: “In order to gain justice for the Chapman family, we are trying to trace former colleagues who may be able to recall working conditions at the time. I would be particularly interested to hear from anyone who worked for Beacon Woodcroft removing ceiling tiles on contracts around the Walsall area, or who undertook contracting work in local schools for Thompson & Arblaster.

“Additionally I’d be keen to hear from any former George Wimpeys employees who worked with asbestos products in the 1960s and particularly anyone who worked on construction of the tower block of flats near Anchor Bridge, Walsall.”

Anyone who can assist with information concerning working practices at any of the companies Mr Chapman worked for, should contact Alida Coates at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors on 0370 1500 100 or contact alida.coates@irwinmitchell.com