Did you work with Hull art teacher John Simpson? Relatives seek clues to asbestos exposure

Relatives of an art teacher from Hull, who died from an asbestos-related disease, are asking locals in Hull to come forward with information about asbestos exposure to try and identify where John may have come into contact with asbestos during his teaching career.

John Simpson died last November after he was diagnosed with the fatal asbestos disease, mesothelioma. His family believe he may have been exposed to asbestos when he worked as an art teacher in the Marist College on Cottingham Road, Hull, from September 1961 until he took early retirement in 1988.

The original Marist College had a large central building but, in 1961, the college opened a new block that included teaching classrooms and an assembly hall. It is suspected that the building had substantial levels of asbestos present, including in cladding, ceiling tiles and structural columns.

The family’s lawyers, Thompsons Solicitors, also believe that the demolition of the nearby Waddington’s Tannery could have contributed to Mr Simpson’s illness, and would like to speak to anyone with information about asbestos use at the tannery.

Mr Simpson’s widow, Jill Simpson, said: “Seeing my husband’s health deteriorate so rapidly was absolutely horrible, but to then find out it was caused by an avoidable illness was even worse.

“With the support of the asbestos team at Thompsons, we have narrowed down our search to the Marist College, but we now need more information from those who worked there – especially caretakers or those who might have undertaken maintenance work on the premises – if we are ever going to get the answers we need.”

HSE statistics released earlier this month show there were 4,412 male deaths and 920 female deaths from fatal asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in Yorkshire and The Humber between 1981 – 2018. In the last year alone, Thompsons Solicitors – which brought about the first successful asbestos claim to the House of Lords in 1972 – has secured more than £4.2 million in asbestos disease claims for families in the region.

Helen Tomlin, of Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Unfortunately, it will be a long time before we can say asbestos is truly a problem of the past.

“That’s why our asbestos specialists at Thompsons are fighting everyday for people in Yorkshire – like Jill – whose loved ones have so cruelly been taken from them by the devastating legacy of asbestos.”

Jo Ritson, specialist asbestos benefits advisor at the Yorkshire and Humberside Asbestos Victims Support Group (SARAG), which supports families dealing with an asbestos diagnosis across the region, added: “It is so important that families are able to get closure after a person has died from asbestos related disease. Not knowing how a loved one has been exposed to asbestos can leave a lot of unanswered questions.

“Sadly, in this case, John died before he was able to speak to a specialist about his asbestos exposure, and so his family are now trying to piece together his working life to find out how this devastating disease happened to him. I would encourage anyone with information to come forward to help.”

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