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Former Factory Worker And Cleaner Appeals For Information About Asbestos Exposure

Specialist Lawyers Help 66-Year-Old In Battle For Justice


By Suzanne Rutter

A mum-of-five coming to terms with the devastating news she is battling an incurable asbestos-related cancer has called on specialist industrial disease lawyers to help her investigate where she was exposed to the deadly dust.

Joan Lesley Cooper, of Oldfield Road in Walker, Newcastle, who is known as Lesley and was previously known under her maiden name Hutton, was diagnosed with the debilitating illness mesothelioma in November 2012 after suffering pains in her abdomen for about two years.

The 66-year-old has now joined forces with lawyers at Irwin Mitchell and together they are appealing for more information about where and how she was exposed to asbestos.

Lesley believes she may have been exposed to asbestos as a child while living in the family council-owned home in Foster Street, Walker, and also possibly in the course of her work.

Lesley is appealing for information about the use of asbestos in the construction of the council-owned house she lived in with her parents and two brothers and four sisters on Foster Street until she was 21.
Lesley says the house was one of a row of council houses and asbestos was used during the building process. Lesley also recalls playing in the empty houses in the street before they were demolished. She says the interior walls of the houses were built with a plaster-board type material which may have contained asbestos.

Lesley began working at the M & M sweet factory on the Quayside in 1962 and was responsible for packing sweets into jars and boxes. 

She worked in the factory’s old building for about six months before she moved on to work at British Engines factory on Walker Road, which made parts for machines and cars. Her role entailed operating a drilling machine at the foundry.

In around 1963/64 she went to work at Dowsons Pickles factory on Fisher Street where she was responsible for packing pickles, onions and beetroot by hand into jars.

Lesley then went to work for Reid Cartons on Old Shields Road, Byker, in 1964/65, which later changed its name to Field and Sons. Lesley’s role involved managing the machines which made the cardboard and then packing it into boxes ready for distribution. She continued to work for the company until 1967 when her first son Gordon was born.

In around the early 1980s she then went to work for James Marines on the Quayside, opposite the law courts, where she was a cleaner for 11 years.

Isobel Lovett, an industrial disease expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office, said: “Asbestos-related diseases are the biggest occupational killer of all time and it can take decades for victims like Lesley to develop the debilitating conditions for which there is sadly no cure. In the majority of cases of mesothelioma the asbestos exposure occurred while they were working, often without even realising that the deadly dust was harmful.

“We represent many people who may not have come into direct contact with asbestos, or know how the firm they worked for used it, but still suffer from the terrible effects of the debilitating illness.

“We are aware of various places Lesley could have been exposed to asbestos, including her family home in Walker along with the factories where she worked, but we need her ex colleagues and friends from the neighbourhood where her family lived to provide us with more information so that we can get her the answers she deserves.”

Lesley, whose husband William Gordon died in June 2012, first started to show symptoms of mesothelioma in 2010 when she began to suffer from pains in her stomach, which meant that she often couldn’t sleep properly. Her doctor referred her to the Freeman Hospital for scans and tests and she was formally diagnosed with mesothelioma on 9 November 2012. She has recently undergone chemotherapy to help prevent the cancer from spreading.

She said: “It has been really hard for me to come to terms with being diagnosed with this terrible illness, particularly as I lost my husband to cancer in June. It’s really disconcerting that I’m now suffering from this incurable cancer simply from going to work every day or because the council used asbestos to build our home.

“It’s difficult for me to accept that I have this terrible illness when I don’t know how or where I was exposed to asbestos. It’s also frightening to think I might not have long left and I hope my ex work mates, or people who remember how our old council houses were built in Walker, will help lawyers investigate how and where I was exposed to asbestos before it’s too late for me to get the answers I need.”

Anyone with information about where Lesley may have been exposed to asbestos should contact Isobel Lovett at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office on 0191 279 0100 or email isobel.lovett@irwinmitchell.com.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise related to Mesothelioma Compensation Claims.