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Widow Seeks Answers From MoD Over Asbestos Death

Former Tank Engineer Died From Mesothelioma After Exposure At Royal Ordinance Factory


The widow of a former tank engineer who died from an asbestos-related lung cancer is appealing for his former Ministry of Defence colleagues to help expert lawyers at law firm Irwin Mitchell discover why he was allowed to come into contact with the deadly dust.

Robert Prince, from Knottingley, West Yorkshire, died aged 70 on 26 January 2012 after a three-month battle with mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos-related lung condition which he believed was contracted four decades ago.

Industrial Illness experts at Irwin Mitchell, working on behalf of Robert’s wife Jacqueline, are pursuing his claim that he was exposed to asbestos while working for the MoD at the Royal Ordnance Factory in Leeds, known as Barnbow, between 1957 and 1974.

Robert began working for the MoD as a trainee engineer and gradually developed his career at the factory, which manufactured tanks. He believed asbestos was used to insulate the tanks and make them fireproof. 

His work at Barnbow, particularly during his apprenticeship at Barnbow involved sweeping the workshop floors around his fellow colleagues. This would generate large amounts of dust, which he believed contained the asbestos particles that ultimately led to his death.

Robert’s wife Jacqueline said: “We first noticed that things weren’t right in the autumn of 2011 when he suddenly had a lack of energy and became really lethargic.

“Robert suffered with pain in his chest, and when he was at Pontefract Hospital for an unrelated problem they picked up on it and sent him for a scan. That found fluid on his lungs and doctors told him that if the pain worsened he should make an appointment at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.

“He made an appointment for wo weeks before Christmas, but had to be admitted as an emergency patient three days earlier because he was in so much pain. After another scan we were given the devastating news that Robert was suffering from mesothelioma and that he would never recover.

“His condition deteriorated over the New Year and in January he lost his battle against the disease.

“It is painful to think that Robert was exposed to something so long ago that ultimately led to such awful pain and suffering, and ended his life too soon. It is important now that we find the answers we are looking for as to why nothing was done to prevent his exposure to asbestos.”

Ian Bailey, an industrial disease specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office, said: “We believe Robert was regularly exposed to asbestos while working for the Ministry of Defence at their Royal Ordnance Factory in Leeds.

“We are now continuing his fight for justice with Mrs Prince to confirm  why he was exposed to asbestos and to ensure that those responsible are held to account.

“Mesothelioma is incurable and the debilitating symptoms can only be treated temporarily. The effects of working with asbestos often don’t occur until many years later and Robert’s family have suffered a terrible experience because the MoD failed to ensure he was safe at work.

“The dangerous of asbestos were known well before he began his career, but his employers continued to put the lives of Robert and his colleagues in danger rather than deal with the presence of a deadly material.

“We urge anyone who worked at the Royal Ordnance Factory between 1957 and 1974 to contact us to help with our investigation, as any information they have may be able to help Jacqueline’s case.”

Anybody who believes they may be able to help should contact Ian Bailey at Irwin Mitchell on 0370 1500 100 or email ian.bailey@irwinmitchell.com.