Basildon man exposed to asbestos urgently seeks former colleagues

How can we help you?

Your enquiry will be reviewed with no obligation.

Basildon man exposed to asbestos urgently seeks former colleagues

19th April 2011

A Basildon man who developed an asbestos-related lung cancer almost fifty years after first being exposed to the deadly material is appealing for former colleagues to come forward and help in his fight for justice.

William Howlett, 67, of Trimley Close, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2010. He believes his illness has been caused by his exposure to asbestos during his work in Plaistow throughout the 1960's and into the 1980's.

Mr Howlett was employed by a company involved with the distribution of books and magazines, known as Gordon & Gotch Ltd of Upper Road, Plaistow. "I was employed as a warehouseman and forklift truck driver between 1962 and 1982," said Mr Howlett.

"In 1964, I remember the walls of the warehouse were sprayed with blue asbestos," he said. "The asbestos was taken from sacks, mixed with water and sprayed onto the walls with a pressurised hose. It stuck to the walls like treacle and was then smoothed over with trowels similar to the kind used by plasterers.

"I can remember there was a lot of dust from the asbestos sacks and both men spraying the walls wore masks. There was no ventilation of any kind but neither myself, nor my colleagues were given any kind of respiratory protection.

"From around 1969 until the end of my employment in 1982, the asbestos coating the warehouse walls was always flaking off," continued Mr Howlett. "The atmosphere in the warehouse was really dusty as a result, and I remember people walking through would always comment and want to leave as soon as possible.

"A few informal complaints were made but no action was ever taken," said Mr Howlett. "Bits of asbestos would flake off whenever the walls were knocked or brushed up against. The fibres felt like someone's hair that had been sprayed heavily with hair spray, only they were a lot coarser. I remember having to handle it daily from brushing the stuff off my overalls."

Nick Greaves, an industrial disease specialist at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: "Mr Howlett began experiencing symptoms of breathlessness and chest pains in June 2010. After consulting his GP on several occasions, a CT scan led to a diagnosis of mesothelioma four months later.

"Mr Howlett and his wife are naturally devastated," said Mr Greaves, a solicitor at the firm. "My client was previously very fit and active. He is now extremely weak and his condition continues to deteriorate. He is currently receiving treatment including radiotherapy and his prognosis is very poor."

Mr Greaves said he was now hoping to trace any colleagues who can remember working with Mr Howlett, or who can remember asbestos dust being prevalent in the areas in which he worked.

"Mr Howlett remembers working alongside a man named Ted Morgan, who would be in his 80's by now," said Mr Greaves. "He also remembers two men named Ken Meakin and John Hobbs, both of whom were from the local area and slightly younger than Mr Howlett.

"We are also seeking anyone who may have worked at management or director level or anyone who may have worked on the administration side of Gordon & Gotch who could help us identify the firm's insurance company," said Mr Greaves. "We understand that Gordon & Gotch Ltd changed its name to Dawson, Royle & Willan Ltd in 1986. It takes many years after exposure to asbestos before any related disease becomes apparent, which can make finding witnesses and information about the employer and their insurers very difficult.

"Unless we can locate Gordon and Gotch's former insurers and prove that Mr Howlett was exposed to asbestos from his time at the company, he and his family may go uncompensated for the fact that all he did was work diligently and as a result he has developed this dreadful illness."

Can you help?
If you remember working alongside William Howlett at Gordon & Gotch, Upper Road, Plaistow E13, between 1964 and 1982, please contact Nick Greaves on 0207 092 2833 or e-mail