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Widow shares mesothelioma story in appeal for witnesses

The widow of a carpenter who died from mesothelioma in 2013 shared her husband's story with the press this week, including a personal photo of the couple in happier days.

Diane Poole released the story through us in the hope that it might jog the memory of other people who had worked with her husband, Tom, in the 1970s. The hope is that Tom's colleagues may be able to share details of working conditions with us to support the claim for compensation against the insurers of the company that employed him.

In a statement before he died, Tom Poole said he believed he was likely exposed to asbestos while helping to build the Glen Park estate, which included Malthouse Road, Glen Crescent and Denny's Close, in Selsey in the 1970s.

Tom, originally from Yorkshire, was a qualified carpenter and worked for Algrey Homes Ltd fitting soffits to the properties. Each soffit, used to join the outer wall to the roof, was made from asbestos sheeting, which Tom and a team of carpenters would cut to size and fit.

This meant that the men would often work all day surrounded by what is now known to be fatal dust without masks or other protection, probably for several years. Before he died, Tom remembered in a statement that he would try to cut the soffits outside but if it was raining, they would do it inside. Even if he wasn't working on soffits himself one day, he would usually be working near someone who was.

In addition, he and his workmates had to cut Big Six corrugated asbestos sheeting used to insulate the garage roofs, using handsaws and drills. Mr Poole says that he and his colleagues were never warned about the possible risks to their health from the asbestos materials they were using.

Asbestos was regularly used as fire-retardant insulation in homes, schools and hospitals throughout the UK until the serious danger of the material was made public in the mid-1980s. The UK has one of the worst records of mesothelioma deaths (cancer caused by asbestos) in the world because the UK government permitted the use of asbestos long after other countries had banned it. Its dangers were already recognised in the 1930s.

Mr Poole was diagnosed with mesothelioma in May 2012 and died a year later. He was 80. Tragically, Tom and Diane lost their son, Chris, the year before when he was brutally murdered by three youths for refusing to buy them alcohol from a local shop in Eastbourne.

Diane, who was brought up on a farm in Eastbourne, met Tom around 1963 when she was out riding near where he worked. They married 18 months later and had two sons. The family lived in Selsey for nearly 10 years before moving back to Eastbourne.

Diane described her husband as a 'lovely dad, a lovely husband', who is terribly missed. Tom was a keen cricketer, playing for a local Selsey side.

"He took such pride in his work, always with the patience to get it exactly right. Somehow it makes it even worse that a job he loved made him ill," she said.

Diane, who has always worked with horses and dogs, still rides at 71. She has found some comfort in her four Jack Russell terriers and her friends, but is badly affected by the death of her husband and son.

She described the disease that killed her husband as 'truly awful'.

Mesothelioma, which is almost always fatal, is a vicious disease, with sufferers unaware that symptoms of coughs and tiredness are more than the curse of old age. It can take 30 years to appear.

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