Family appeals for help after mother dies from lung cancer caused by asbestos

Audrey Eva Chittock (asbestos appeal) 1A grieving family is asking for help from their mother’s former work colleagues who could help to prove where and when she was exposed to deadly asbestos dust and fibres.

Audrey Eva Chittock, from Abingdon, died from mesothelioma at the age of 75. Mesothelioma is an aggressive and terminal type of lung cancer caused in the vast majority of cases by breathing in asbestos fibres.

With the help of Birchall Blackburn Law, which specialises in industrial disease, the family is seeking anyone who worked with Audrey at Kohen-Windsor Box Company Ltd, in Thame, between 1986 and 1988. Witnesses could hold valuable information to help the family obtain justice following their mother’s death.

Audrey worked for the company unpacking and repackaging vehicle parts. The parts included brake linings, shoes and clutches, which would have contained asbestos.

Audrey’s youngest daughter, Michelle Chittock from Abingdon, also worked as a packer for the company in 1983 at the age of 18, while her mother was there.

Michelle says: “The parts arrive on pallets to the benches in our workshop area. We would have to unpack them, repack and label up the new boxes. I remember removing the brake shoes with the linings, some would be covered in brown paper, and there would be loose dust particles. There was an awful lot of black dust.”

Despite the brake shoes and clutch pads arriving at the workshop in boxes marked ‘May Contain Asbestos’, Michelle and her mother were not given respirator protection or warned of the dangers of asbestos.

Tina Webb, Audrey’s eldest daughter from Wantage, says: “It started in May 2012 with back and chest pain. By October she was short of breath, had a persistent cough, no appetite and had lost a lot of weight. From then on mum was bedridden and needed care 24-hours-a-day up until her death in the December.

“Nothing can prepare you for being told that you mum has cancer and that there is nothing they can do. To see someone – who had the strength to raise five children and worked so hard – deteriorate in health so fast is devastating. We all miss her dearly.”

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), more than 2,500 people a year die from mesothelioma in the UK. HSE figures show that nearly 350 people have died from the lung cancer between 1981 and 2011 in Oxfordshire. The Department of Work and Pensions says that eventually 53,000 people will die from mesothelioma between 2013 and 2037 in the UK.

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.

Victoria Roberts, an industrial disease solicitor from Birchall Blackburn Law, which is representing the family, said: “Mesothelioma takes decades to develop, which often denies hardworking people the justice they deserve. It is a cruel and incurable lung disease that robs families of their loved ones.

“To help get Audrey and her family justice, we need to hear from former workers from Kohen-Windsor Box Co. Ltd, who might have known and worked alongside Audrey. They could have vital information about the presence of, and exposure to, the deadly dust and fibres.”

Anyone with information should contact Victoria Roberts on Freephone 0800 614 722 or email varoberts@birchallblackburn.co.uk. Your details will remain confidential.