The widow of a maintenance engineer who died from an asbestos exposure is appealing for his former colleagues to help with an investigation into his death.

John Devine, died aged 64 just two months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos-related cancer.

The disease affects the lining of the lungs and is believed to be as a result of exposure to harmful dust and fibres.

Lawyers acting for Mr Devine’s widow Patricia are investigating two Huddersfield firms that employed him in the 1960s and 70s.

And they are calling on his former colleagues to come forward and testify to working conditions at the time.

Mr Devine left school and went to work for James Robinson & Co in Huddersfield from 1964 to 1970 as an apprentice fitter. After a two year stint in the Merchant Navy he returned to town to work for Hopkinson Valves on Blacker Road, Birkby.

Chemical firm James Robinson Ltd was taken over by Indian firm Vivimed Labs in 2008 but is still based on Leeds Road.

Hopkinsons Valves in now based in Elland and was taken over by global engineering group Weir.

Neither company was willing to comment on the matter.

Nicola Handley, an industrial disease specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s solicitors in Leeds, said: “We believe John was substantially exposed to asbestos whilst working for the James Robinson & Co, Hopkinsons Valves and Shell Tankers in the Merchant Navy.

“Regrettably, insurers still require proof of employment before they will deal with claims and we are therefore required to go to great lengths to obtain corroborative evidence of employment despite the fact that John provided a written statement during his lifetime detailing where and when he was exposed to asbestos.

“We therefore require help from his former colleagues to help show that he was employed by these firms.

“Mesothelioma is incurable and the debilitating symptoms can only be treated temporarily. The effects of working with asbestos often don’t occur until decades later, and John’s family have suffered terribly simply because he wasn’t adequately protected at work.

“The dangers and risks from exposure to asbestos dust were known by companies from at least the 1950s yet all too often we see workers and their families who have been left devastated decades later because they were not given the correct safety equipment to protect them from exposure.”

Before he died, the dad-of-two recalled that while he was employed at James Robinson  & Co he was responsible for routine maintenance which involved stripping asbestos lagging from the pipework and boilers.

Huddersfield engineer John Devine who died from exposure to asbestos - Pictured during his time in the Merchant Navy from 1970 to 1972.
Huddersfield engineer John Devine who died from exposure to asbestos - Pictured during his time in the Merchant Navy from 1970 to 1972.
 

Mr Devine’s wife of 35 years, Patricia, said: “John’s condition deteriorated rapidly over the months after his diagnosis and he had to spend a week in a hospice because he was in so much pain and needed constant care from the nurses. It was heartbreaking to see him suffer; and as a family we felt helpless.

“John was still working at the time of his diagnosis and we were both looking forward to spending our retirement years together.

“I am still trying to come to terms with his death and the fact that we will not be growing old together as we had planned.”

Anyone who knew or worked with John and who can provide any information is asked to contact Nicola Handley at Irwin Mitchell on 0113 220 6233 or email nicola.handley@irwinmitchell.com.

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