Widow’s hunt to prove asbestos caused husband’s death

John Birchall, who died from mesothelioma in March 2015
John Birchall, who died from mesothelioma in March 2015

A widow is hoping to trace former colleagues of her late husband after he died from an asbestos-related illness.

Sheila Birchall has launched an appeal to trace anyone who used to work with John Birchall, who was known as Jack, after he died, aged 82, in March 2015 from mesothelioma.

John was unaware that he had the terminal form of lung cancer that is linked to asbestos exposure and it was only detected in the post-mortem.

Sheila, his second wife, and his family are now trying to trace his former colleagues in the hope that they will be able to provide further information about his working conditions.

John was employed as a mixer at a company known as Carborandum UK in St Helens, which was later bought by construction material manufacturer Saint Gobain - the name by which the site is known today.

He worked there for around 35 years, starting work there in the late 1950s, before he retired aged 59.

He was responsible for blending solvents, powders and others chemicals at the Mill Lane site, where he was exposed to fumes and dust on a daily basis.

Lawyers acting for Sheila believe he could have been exposed to asbestos while working at this site.

Sheila, who lives in Skelmersdale, met John in 1976 while he still worked at the plant, and the pair married in 1980.

She said: “John was a tall man, over six foot, and had a very rugged face that was the sort people remembered. To me and his friends he was known as Jack, not John, and this is the name many would remember him by.

“He loved his gardening and he was an avid Everton fan. When he retired we had a lot of great times together, and would often go travelling to the Greek islands.

“As time went on, John got very breathless. He went to the doctors with a pain in his back which we discovered was the result of kidney failure. He ended up in hospital for six weeks but no further investigations were done.

“We didn’t know about his cancer during his lifetime, but the reason for his deteriorating health is clear now we know what caused his death

“I miss him hugely, and I hope there are people out there who remember working with him who can help us prove what caused his death.”

Sheila has instructed specialist asbestos lawyers at Hugh James to investigate how he came into contact with the hazardous material.

Simon Ellis, partner and specialist solicitor in asbestos-related injuries at Hugh James, said: “We are hoping that people who might have worked alongside John during his career - whether they worked directly or indirectly with him – will come forward and help shed some light on the conditions he worked in. Mesothelioma has a latency period of up to 50 years, which means he could have been exposed to asbestos decades ago but only much later developed the disease as a result.

“John’s late wife Sheila has relatively little knowledge of his employment history, so it really is vital for us to speak to as many people as possible that he came into contact with during his working life to see if we can learn more about his potential asbestos exposure.”

Former colleagues who knew John Birchall can get in touch with law firm Hugh James by calling Simon Ellis on 0808 231 6604.