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Granddad-Of-Four Suffering With Asbestos-Related Illness Takes His Bid For Justice To High Court

Granddad-Of-Four Suffering With Asbestos-Related Illness Takes His Bid For Justice To High Court


By Suzanne Rutter

A former boiler maker coming to terms with the devastating news he is suffering from the incurable asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma is one step closer to getting the answers he deserves as he takes his battle for justice to the High Court in London.

John Thackray, of Ryton in Newcastle, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2012 after extensive tests at North Tyneside General Hospital and is currently undergoing chemotherapy to help alleviate the pain he suffers.

The 78-year-old believes he was exposed to asbestos while working for Hawthorne Leslie (Engineers) Ltd at their St Peter’s Basin site in the north east from 1952 to 1962. He began his career as an apprentice boiler maker and progressed to a fully-qualified boiler maker after five years.

He says he came into contact with asbestos dust and fibres on a daily basis while working in what was known as the boiler making shop, where the internal parts for ship engines were made before being taken to the firm’s sister yard in Hebburn. He was responsible for cutting sheets of asbestos lagging which were used to insulate the boilers.

Roger Maddocks, an industrial disease expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office is now representing him in his battle for answers and has issued proceedings against Hawthorne Leslie (Engineers) Ltd at the High Court.

Roger Maddocks said: “Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer which causes so much distress for victims like John who worked in industries where we believe asbestos was regularly used.

“Sadly, many employers did not do enough to manage the risks of asbestos exposure despite knowing how dangerous it is. It is only right that those people affected by exposure to asbestos through no fault of their own are entitled to justice from their former employers.”

John, who has two children and four grandchildren, began working for Hawthorne Leslie (Engineers) Ltd in June 1952 as a boiler maker and worked in the boiler making shop alongside about 250 other tradesmen responsible for making the internal parts of the ship engines.

He says all the boilers were lagged on the outside with asbestos and during the final two years of his apprenticeship he was responsible for cutting sheets of asbestos for the welders to fit into place.

Following the completion of his apprenticeship in 1957 he was then allocated his own apprentice to help with the boiler making but recalls being exposed to asbestos on a regular basis as his colleagues lagged the machines.

He first started to show the symptoms of mesothelioma in May 2012 and had fluid drained from his lungs a month later. He was formally diagnosed with the incurable condition in July 2012 at North Tyneside General Hospital and has undergone chemotherapy. He now feels constantly tired and has lost a lot of weight.

John, who now works as a steward for Newcastle United Football Club, said: “My work at Hawthorne’s was always so dirty and dusty, especially when I did the asbestos lagging work myself. Using asbestos was a common part of the job although I was never warned about how dangerous it could be to my health, or given any protective clothing or a mask to wear.

“It has been absolutely awful trying to come to terms with having such a terrible illness like mesothelioma simply because I went to work all those years ago. I know Mary and our children are incredibly worried about me and our future as I might not have long left.

“I hope the court case will give me the answers I deserve so that I’m one step closer to getting justice for my family.”

Anyone with further information about the working conditions at Hawthorn Leslie (Engineers) Ltd should contact Roger Maddocks or Emma Crowther  at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office on 0191 279 0095 or email roger.maddocks@irwinmitchell.com. or emma.crowther@irwinmitchell.com.

For more information about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to Mesothelioma.