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Widow’s appeal for help in fight for justice
The widow of a Kilburn man who died from asbestos-related cancer is appealing to former colleagues of her husband to come forward and help in her fight for justice.
After a period of feeling unwell, Roberto Martinez, known as Bobby or Bob to his colleagues, went to see the family doctor in May last year. On 28 May 2010 - just three weeks later - he died from mesothelioma, a painful cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Now, his wife Kathleen is hoping anyone who worked alongside her husband during his 25 years in the construction industry will provide information which might help in her fight for compensation.
"Robert, as I knew him, only went to the doctor because he was having pains in his chest and was struggling with his breathing," said Kathleen Martinez, 77. "The doctor examined him and said we should immediately go to the hospital. That's when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma," she said.
Mr Martinez, who was 80, was born in San Diego, USA. "He first came to England in 1948 when he was stationed here with the US Army," said Mrs Martinez. "We met in Newbury in 1951 and married in 1952."
The couple moved to San Diego six months later, but returned to the UK with their family in 1968. Lesley Mynett, the industrial disease specialist representing Mrs Martinez and her three daughters, said it was at this time that Mr Martinez began working in construction.
"Up until then, Roberto had worked as a groundsman with the San Diego Parks Department," she said. "He was part of the maintenance team working out in the open and he had no asbestos exposure until he moved to England."
The couple initially lived in Finchley, before a two-year spell in Bayswater was followed by a move to Kilburn, where Mrs Martinez still lives.
"Roberto began working for Holland, Hannen & Cubitts Southern Ltd, which was later taken over and became Tarmac Regional Construction," said Miss Mynett, an associate with Fentons Solicitors LLP. "From 1969 through to his retirement in 1993, Roberto worked as a builder on the construction and refurbishment of properties across the City of London."
Miss Mynett said Mr Martinez had worked on a number of large jobs and well-known buildings, including the refurbishment of the Cumberland Hotel on Oxford Street, and several of the Duke of Westminster's properties.
"Unfortunately as is often the case with men of Roberto's generation, he kept his work and family life very separate, so finding former colleagues who can help us show he was exposed to asbestos during his work is proving difficult," said Miss Mynett. "It can take many years after exposure to asbestos before any related disease becomes apparent, and we desperately need to hear from any colleagues who worked alongside Roberto during his time working across London.
"Other than suffering from a stomach ulcer, Roberto had always been a fit and healthy man," said Miss Mynett. "But that all changed last year. As soon as he had seen his GP he was admitted to hospital, but his condition deteriorated rapidly and he succumbed to his illness in just a matter of days.
"We are now hoping to trace any colleagues who can provide further information about the materials that were used in these workplaces, who remember working with Roberto Martinez and who can remember asbestos dust being prevalent in the properties in which they worked," she said. "Roberto has paid an enormous price for working dutifully. Hopefully with the help of his former colleagues, his family can win their fight for justice and start rebuilding their lives."
Can you help?
If you remember working alongside Roberto Martinez on property construction or refurbishment in the City of London, between 1969 and 1993, please call Lesley Mynett on 0161 238 6417 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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