Bowater UK Paper Mill in Northfleet witness appeal

Bowater Paper MillFamily of Gravesend pensioner who died from cancer call on former colleagues to help prove asbestos exposure.

The family of a pensioner who died from a form of lung cancer is appealing for help to prove he was exposed to a deadly asbestos dust.

William Chapman was employed as a stoker in the boiler house at Bowater UK Paper company Limited/ Bowaters UK pulp & paper Mills Ltd in Northfleet, Kent.

With the help of Birchall Blackburn Law, which specialises in industrial disease, the family is seeking those who worked with Mr Chapman between 1947- 1974. Witnesses could hold valuable information to help the family secure the financial support they require following his death.

The company made white printing paper, brown packaging and corrugated board paper which was distributed throughout Britain, Europe and America. William was a supervisor, in charge of the boiler room and managed a number of staff responsible for shoveling coal into the boilers.

William was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive form cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, in April 2011.

William ChapmanPrior to his illness he was a fit and healthy man who was the main carer for his wife Jessie who suffered from longstanding mobility issues and arthritis. William prepared all meals, helped her in and out of bed, was responsible for all the housework and cared for her at their home in Gravesend.

Since his illness deteriorated and subsequent death, his widow, Jessie Chapman was forced to move into a care home.

She commented: “Back when William was working at Bowater, he would return home from work covered in fine dust. The first thing he would do was wash his hands and face.  He would also have to wash his hair, because it would be completely full of dust and I would have scrub his overalls in the sink.

“He would often complain about how dusty and hot the boiler room was but it wasn’t until after his retirement that he started to show ill signs of health.

“It was when he started to become a little bit more short of breath that I started to get worried, especially because he used to do so much for me. I noticed that he had to sit down to rest after he had been doing things. Sometimes, when he came in from the shops, he would have to sit down on the sofa to rest, even before he took his coat off.”

Soon after William’s symptoms progressed, the family insisted Mr Chapman should see his local GP.

His grandson, Mark Boston, used to visit the couple throughout the week. He added: “My grandfather was always a fit man and so after a consultation at the hospital he was distressed to hear that he was suffering from lung cancer and it was inoperable.

“From April 2012 his condition deteriorated. He was still quite determined to keep going as best he could but was becoming increasingly tired and fatigued.

“During this later period of his life his whole demeanour seemed to change. He was very slow and frail. He was able to shuffle to the toilet, but I often had to assist him by supporting him a few times a day.”

2500 deaths a year are caused by mesothelioma

Mesothelioma causes around 2,500 deaths every year, according to the latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures, and the numbers are continuing to rise. According to the Department of Work and Pensions, 53,000 British people will die from mesothelioma between 2013 and 2037.

There are limited treatments for mesothelioma because it is a relatively rare cancer and affects mostly people of retirement age, so it is often forgotten and attracts very little research funding.

Dianne Yates, partner at Birchall Blackburn Law which is representing the family, said: “William worked hard all his life and was a fit and healthy man. Mesothelioma is a cruel and heart-breaking disease and his death has had a huge impact on the family with Mrs Chapman now in full time care.

“We desperately need to hear from anyone with information about the use of asbestos within Bowater UK paper company. We would especially like to hear from any of the men who worked beside him on shift work in the boiler room. In many cases it only takes one or two asbestos fibres to become trapped in the lungs for a person to develop mesothelioma.”

Anyone with information should contact Dianne Yates or Joanne Keen on Freephone 0800 988 1548. Your details will remain confidential.