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Widow Seeks Justice After Losing Husband To Industrial Disease

Asbestos Experts Appeal For Plumber’s Former Colleagues To Help Boost Investigation


By Suzanne Rutter

The heartbroken widow of a former plumbing and heating engineer who died from an asbestos-related cancer just nine months after he was diagnosed is appealing for his former colleagues to help her battle for justice.

Charles Baker, a grandfather of two from Lowestoft in Suffolk, died from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by inhaling asbestos dust, in January 2013 aged 72.

He leaves behind his devastated wife Shirley who has instructed expert industrial disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell and together they are appealing for Charles’ former colleagues at T A King & Son, based in Sandridge Road in St Albans, to get in touch.

It is believed that Charles’  former work mates may be able to confirm details about how he was exposed to asbestos between 1955 and 1966 and whether more could have been done by his employer to protect him from the deadly dust.

His job at the building firm involved installing and renovating boilers, cold water and steam pipes throughout the St Albans and Hertfordshire areas, including new housing developments and older buildings such as public buildings, schools and hospitals.

Simone Hardy, an industrial disease expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield office representing Shirley, said: “Mesothelioma is an industrial illness for which there is sadly no cure. Employers have been aware of the dangers of exposing workers to asbestos dust since the 1950s and 60s and this case highlights the devastating consequences the disease can have.

“Shirley is absolutely heartbroken about Charles’ death and we will do all we can to find out more information about the working conditions he endured so we can help her honour her husband’s memory and get her the justice she deserves.”

Charles first started to suffer the debilitating symptoms of mesothelioma in 2011 when he suffered chest pains. Initial tests didn’t flag any problems but his condition failed to improve and in 2012 he was referred to James Paget Hospital for further investigations. He was finally diagnosed in May last year and died nine months later.

Before his death he told Shirley about the type of work he carried out for T A King & Sons, where he started as an apprentice in 1955. During his 10-year career at the firm he said he regularly came into contact with asbestos and would either have to chip off old asbestos lagging with a hammer or chisel or mix new asbestos paste to lag boilers and pipes.

He particularly recalled working at St Michael’s Manor, Hill End Psychiatric Hospital, St Albans Abbey and St Albans City Hospital.

Shirley, a 70-year-old mum of one who was married to Charles for 47 years, said: “It’s been really hard to come to terms with losing Charles to such an awful illness and so soon after he was diagnosed. Just a year earlier he had been given the all-clear after suffering from prostate cancer, so it was a terrible blow to learn he was so sick again and he was unlikely to have long left.

“His illness meant he was in pain and discomfort all the time, he was tired and short of breath and the chemotherapy really knocked him for six. He was also upset that he wasn’t well enough to do the gardening and help me round the house as he used to.

“His job meant he came into contact with asbestos every day and it was dirty and dusty work. He said he was never warned about how dangerous asbestos could be to his health or given any protective clothing or a mask to wear to protect him from the worst of it.

“He worked with so many different people and in such a variety of well known buildings in St Albans and Hertfordshire that I’m sure there are people out there who can help me honour his memory.”

Anyone with information about the working conditions at T A King & Son in the 1950s or 1960s should contact Simone Hardy at Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield office on 0114 274 4420 or email simone.hardy@irwinmitchell.com.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise related to mesothelioma.