"Last throw of the dice"  as man exposed to asbestos in 1960s seeks insurer

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"Last throw of the dice" as man exposed to asbestos in 1960s seeks insurer

19th March 2012

A Northampton man who developed cancer after being exposed to asbestos as a teenager has made a last ditch appeal to former colleagues to come forward in his fight for justice.

Last year, Christopher Gibney described how the asbestos he was exposed to four decades ago had led to him developing the painful cancer mesothelioma. Mr Gibney, who between 1963 and 1968 trained as a painter and decorator with HH Woolnough & Son Ltd, based in Harlestone Road, Northampton, made an emotional appeal for anyone who might be able to help his battle for compensation to get in touch with his lawyers.

“I was 16 when I started working there,” said Mr Gibney, now 65, of Nobottle. “It wasn’t until forty years later, in 2004, that I became ill, and I was devastated when I was told I had developed mesothelioma.”

But despite the appeal in March, Mr Gibney and his wife Judy are still  waiting for the vital piece of information that will help them secure the justice they deserve. “We need to know who insured the firm at the time I worked there,” said Mr Gibney, a father of two grown-up children and grandfather of three. “We had hoped that someone who worked in the Woolnough’s office would come forward, or anyone who worked for Bernard Tippleston Solicitors, the firm which acted for the company around that time,” he said. “But we’re still none the wiser.”

Lesley Mynett, an industrial disease specialist with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said that as there was a strict time limit in cases involving mesothelioma, it was critical that the insurer is identified as soon as possible. “This is our last throw of the dice if we are to secure Christopher the compensation to which he is entitled,” she said. “We have one more vital piece of information which we are hoping might trigger a memory and help provide the final piece to this puzzle, and it involves an accident that occurred in the mid 1960s.”

Miss Mynett said she had learned how a Woolnough’s employee named Alf Garrett had fallen from a great height whilst working on council houses in the Daventry area – possibly Byfield or Woodford Halse. “Mr Garrett was seriously injured when he landed on an open window,” said Miss Mynett. “This was a truly horrendous incident, one that anyone who was working at HH Woolnough’s at the time is unlikely to forget.

“We are hoping that if we can trace anyone who helped Mr Garrett following that fall, they might have vital information about who was the firm’s insurance company at that time – which is when Christopher was exposed to asbestos.”

After his diagnosis in April 2005, Mr Gibney underwent a parietal pleurectomy – a surgical procedure which involved part of his lung being removed, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. “As soon as the doctors told me I had been exposed to asbestos, I knew it must have been during my time at Woolnough’s,” he said. “During my apprenticeship we undertook projects painting and decorating on lots of different domestic and commercial properties. I would use a wire brush to clean the guttering which was made of an asbestos material, causing a fine dust which got all over my clothes and hair and which I would breathe in,” he said.

“I was also exposed to asbestos on other jobs, like when we carried out work in boiler rooms at colleges and hospitals. As we worked, asbestos dust may have been disturbed from the lagging around the pipe work and the boilers, getting in the air and all over anyone in the room.”

Miss Mynett said that as it is believed HH Woolnough & Son went out of business in the 1980s, Mr Gibney’s case hinges on being able to identify the firm’s former insurers. “We are hoping that even of they do not remember Christopher himself, the incident involving Mr Garrett will spark a memory in someone, a memory that could prove vital in this case,” she said.

Can you help?If you remember working alongside Christopher Gibney between 1963 and 1968, if you recall the ‘Alf Garrett’ incident, or if you worked for HH Woolnough & Son Ltd andthink you can help in any way, please call Lesley Mynett on 0161 238 6417 or e-mail lesley.mynett@fentons.co.uk

Read more: Northants Herald & Post