Family demands answers after inquest over shipyard worker's death

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26 January 2017 2:26PM

THE family of a deceased shipyard worker have launched a fresh appeal for information after an inquest revealed that the retired joiner died from years of dangerous exposure to asbestos.

Douglas Newby, who worked in the Vickers-Armstrong shipyard in the 1950s and 60s, died in June last year following a battle with lung cancer.

The 79-year-old worked in the joiners’ shop where he built furniture for the ships in the yard, but also spent time on board ships building cabins, fitting them out with walls and partitions and installing furniture.

During that time asbestos was used as insulation on board the ships and Mr Newby recalled everyone’s work clothes being covered in dangerous asbestos dust.

We were not told that asbestos could be harmful, something which I now think is criminal

In 1960 he came into direct contact with a product called marinite when he worked in a confined space to build toilets and a cinema on the ocean liner, the SS Oriana. His clothes would often be covered in white asbestos dust from the material during the working day.

When he was diagnosed with cancer in September 2015, he found out that Marinite contained asbestos.

An inquest held at Barrow Town Hall on January 11 concluded that Mr Newby died from malignant mesothelioma - an industrial disease caused by exposure to asbestos.

Mr Newby’s step-daughter, Gillian Beer, said: "Dougie hadn't managed to get out of the house for a year, and for a man that liked to go for walks and the outdoors this was cruel. He took his diagnosis like a man and he was very brave, even towards the end."

Speaking at the time of his appeal for former colleagues to come forward in April 2016, Mr Newby said: "We were not told that asbestos could be harmful, something which I now think is criminal.

"We had no masks to wear and with the name of the product, Marinite, not having any reference to asbestos, we did not know it had any connection to asbestos. We just thought it was another product we were using.”

To fight his case, the great-grandfather acquired the help of industrial disease lawyers, Hodge Jones & Allen.

The firm are now acting on behalf of the family who are keen to find new witnesses willing to speak out about the working conditions in the shipyard in the 1950s and 60s.

Isobel Lovett, head of industrial disease at Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors, said: "Prior to developing this illness, Douglas had been an independent family man who enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and doing DIY and gardening.

"Unfortunately, he was robbed of his precious retirement time because his employer exposed him to asbestos at work and failed to protect him from the deadly dust.

"It is clear that Vickers-Armstrong have questions to answer from Douglas’s family, but now also potentially from his former colleagues.”

Anyone with information that may help Mr Newby’s family is asked to contact Isobel Lovett at Hodge Jones & Allen on 020 7874 8502 or email ilovett@hja.net.

To find out more about asbestos exposure visit the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Centre by clicking here.

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