Sarah Wolf is very much hoping that sharing with the local press the heart-breaking story of an honest working man facing the consequences of simply doing the best for his family may prompt former colleagues to come forward with important information.
Peter Smith, now in his 70s, discovered nearly two years ago that he had contracted mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. He was desperately trying to establish where he contracted the disease so that he can access compensation to provide for his family. Sadly, Peter died this week.
Peter started work as a machine operator at the age of 16 in 1964 for The Hoffman Manufacturing Company Ltd, later RHP (Bearings), which was one of Chelmsford's biggest employers before being wound down in the 1980s. Peter worked on the ball bearing production line for most of his career until he was made redundant in 1989, when the factory closed. Peter's brother, father, uncle and cousin also worked at the factory.
In a statement given to his lawyer, Sarah Wolf at Fieldfisher, Peter said that he believed that he was exposed to asbestos dust from lagging which encased pipework in the factory.
Peter, who lived in Chelmsford his whole life, is married with a daughter. Tragically, his other daughter died two years ago, leaving behind two children.
"So many of us in the local community spent our lives in that place", Peter said before he died. "Many of the people I worked with have now, sadly, died, but I do occasionally run into people in Chelmsford who used to work at RHP.
"I know I won't recover from this terrible disease, and I am desperate to find a way to keep my wife, Susan, secure in the future. This means coming up with enough evidence to pursue a claim against the insurers of the factory, who are denying that any of us workers were exposed to asbestos there.
"I certainly remember that we were given no warnings about the dangers of asbestos. Nor were we provided with any protective equipment, such as masks."
Peter started to experience symptoms from the disease, which is generally fatal, in the summer of 2016, when he became breathless while working with his wife on their allotment. An x-ray at Broomfield Hospital revealed that his lungs were full of fluid. He is now gravely ill. The condition has had a devastating impact on him and his family.
Before becoming ill, he was very fit and active, and particularly enjoyed helping elderly people in the area with their gardening and, as a member of the Fuchsia Society, sold plants to raise money for disabled children. He finds it particularly frustrating that he is no longer able to help care for his beloved grandchildren.
Peter's story will be published by the local Chelmsford press this month.
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