The family of a shoe machinist from Burton Latimer is searching for answers after losing their much-loved mother to a fatal form of asbestos-related cancer they suspect is linked to her working conditions.

Doreen Doughty – née Drage – worked for shoe manufacturer Whitney and Westley from 1965 to 1981 as a machinist. Her family fear that toxic asbestos may have been present in her workplace, including as fire protection on steel beams, and that she might have been exposed during her time there.

Doreen’s diagnosis came to light after she visited her GP in March 2018 with tightness and pains in her chest that her family put down to a potential infection. Much to Doreen’s surprise, the doctor admitted her to hospital for a biopsy which revealed she showed signs of mesothelioma – a fatal form of asbestos-related cancer.

Her health continued to deteriorate and she had to have fluid drained off her lungs on a regular basis. Doreen passed away in August, just five months after visiting her GP.

Her daughters, Helen Strudwick and Lesley Newman, are now appealing for former colleagues to come forward with any information that might help to establish if asbestos had been used at the Whitney and Westley factory, with support from specialist asbestos solicitors, Thompsons Solicitors.

Doreen Doughty – née Drage – worked for a shoe manufacturer where she may have been exposed to asbestos

“It was all so quick – one minute Mum was sitting down with the GP and then the next she was having fluid drained off her lung and being told she had an asbestos cancer. It was devastating,” said Helen.

“We are desperate to find out where she was exposed to asbestos, and who was responsible. The team at Thompsons are helping us to piece together her working history because mesothelioma is caused in the majority of cases by exposure to asbestos in the workplace but we need help from those who worked there at the time.”

"Asbestos usage is a terrible mistake of the past that has major implications on people’s lives in the present. People like Doreen’s family who are now having to live with the legacy of loss that this dangerous substance causes."

Steve Fitzwalter
Personal Injury Solicitor, Thompsons Solicitors

The family is asking anyone with information about working conditions at Whitney and Westley, particularly between 1965 and 1981 to contact their legal team at Thompsons.

Steve Fitzwalter, of Thompsons Solicitors, added: “We are hoping to get more information about whether asbestos was used more generally to lag beams and steelwork in the factory where Doreen worked and which may have put her at risk.

“Asbestos usage is a terrible mistake of the past that has major implications on people’s lives in the present. People like Doreen’s family who are now having to live with the legacy of loss that this dangerous substance causes.”

Anyone with information about working conditions at Whitney and Westley, particularly between 1965 and 1981, should contact Steve Fitzwalter at Thompsons Solicitors on 0121 262 1280, or email stevefitzwalter@thompsons.law.co.uk.