Widow searching for answers after husband’s death

John Birchall
John Birchall

A widow is hoping to trace ex-colleagues of her late husband after he died from an asbestos-related illness.

Sheila Birchall has launched an appeal to trace anyone who used to work with John Birchall, who was known as Jack, after he died aged 82 in March 2015 from mesothelioma.

John was unaware that he had the form of lung cancer linked to asbestos exposure and it was only detected post-mortem.

Sheila and his family are now trying to trace his former colleagues in the hope that they will be able to provide further information about his working conditions.

John, who lived in Skelmersdale, was employed as a mixer at a company known as Carborandum UK in St Helens, which was later bought by construction material manufacturer Saint Gobain - the name by which the site is known today.

He worked there 35 years, starting in the late ’50s before he retired at 59. He was responsible for blending solvents, powders and others chemicals at the Mill Lane site, where he was exposed to fumes and dust on a daily basis.

Lawyers acting for Sheila believe he could have been exposed to asbestos while working there.

Sheila is John’s second wife, their having met in 1976. She said: “John was a tall man, over 6ft, and had a very rugged face that was the sort people remembered. To me and his friends he was known as Jack and this is the name many would remember him by. He loved his gardening and he was an avid Everton fan.

“As time went on, John got very breathless. He went to the doctor with a back pain which we discovered was the result of kidney failure. He ended up in hospital for six weeks but no further investigations were done. We didn’t know about his cancer during his lifetime, but the reason for his deteriorating health is clear now we know what caused his death.

“I miss him hugely, and I hope there are people out there who remember working with him who can help us prove what caused his death.”

Sheila has instructed specialist asbestos lawyers at Hugh James to investigate how he came into contact with the hazardous material. Solicitor Simon Ellis said: “Sheila has relatively little knowledge of his employment history, so it really is vital for us to speak to as many people as possible that he came into contact with during his working life to see if we can learn more about his potential asbestos exposure.”

Anyone with details should ring Hugh James on 0808 231 6604.