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Widow Appeals For Husband’s Former Colleagues To Come Forward As Inquest Concludes

Coroner Rules Dad-Of-Two Died Due To Industrial Disease


The widow of a man who died from exposure to deadly asbestos dust just a week before their Golden Wedding Anniversary is continuing her battle for justice in his name after an inquest ruled he died from industrial disease and is appealing for his former colleagues to come forward to help shed light on conditions in his former workplaces.

Devoted dad-of-two and grandfather-of-eight Thomas William Flower, from Carville, Durham, died in October last year from asbestosis, which was diagnosed after his death following a  four-year battle with illness.

HM Deputy Coroner for North & South Districts of Durham and Darlington Mr Oliver last week  (Tuesday 20 March) returned a verdict of death due to industrial disease for 74-year-old Thomas, who for much of his life worked in Sunderland and Country Durham. 

Isobel Lovett, an asbestos related disease expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office, is helping Thomas’s devastated widow, Jean, in her search for answers as to where her husband came into contact with asbestos and, speaking after the inquest, appealed for his former workmates to help his widow in her legal fight.

She said: “This is a particularly sad case because Thomas and Jean were just a week away from celebrating their Golden Wedding anniversary. Tragically, as a result of this cruel illness, they were robbed of a precious celebration and special time together.”

Throughout his working career, Thomas worked at Newalls Insulation at Washington Chemical Company Limited between 1964 and 1967 (approx).

He also worked at Pyrex in Sunderland between 1963 and the late 1960s to the early 1970s, as well as time spent at Caterpillar at Berkeley, Washington and at Phillips Factory in 1973 until 1993 making the glass tubes for TV’s before working his way up to quality control manager. 

Thomas then worked as a caretaker for Neville's Cross School in County Durham from 1995 to 2001 where, amongst other things, he looked after boilers and carried out general maintenance. 

Isobel continues: “Little is known about all of the roles Thomas worked in or the conditions at many of the workplaces mentioned. We would urge anyone who can shed light on conditions at any of these places, and particularly anyone who remembers working with Thomas, to get in touch.”

She adds: “Time and time again we are approached for help by people who are given a death sentence when the only thing they have done wrong is to breathe the air at work. It is not unreasonable for people to be able to go to work and come home again unharmed.

“We will continue to campaign for justice for all of our clients and their families whose lives have been turned upside down by this dreadful disease.”

Commenting on the loss of her ‘soul mate’ Thomas’s widow 71-year-old Jean, said: “Thomas and I met in our early 20s and had been together for 50 years. To lose my soul mate just a week before our Golden Wedding Anniversary was almost too much to bear.

“He was so ill during the last few years of his life, he never complained, but I knew he was suffering and it was heartbreaking from me and the rest of the family to see as he’d worked hard all his life to support us. He was such a devoted husband and father.

“Not knowing he died from asbestosis until after his death made things ten times worse.  I am still in shock and feel numb about it.  I really find that I can’t think straight.  I just want him back as I am feeling totally lost without him.

“If anyone can help us find answers as to why Thomas became so ill with this dreadful disease, I would urge them to get in touch with us.”

Anyone who can help with relevant information is asked to contact Isobel Lovett at Irwin Mitchell on 0191 279 0104 or email isobel.lovett@irwinmitchell.com

Our specialist asbestos claims team will provide you with free initial advice on your compensation claim if you or a loved one has suffered due to an asbestos related illness. See our Asbestos-Related Disease Claims Guide for more information.