A former Durham joiner who was forced to spend more than a month in a Greek hospital after falling gravely ill with symptoms linked to asbestos-related cancer has appealed to his former workmates to come forward with any information that may help him secure compensation to help fund his treatment.  

Mr John Shaw, 85, had been travelling abroad in September 2023 with his wife Mary when his health suddenly deteriorated.  

He was admitted to a local hospital on the island of Crete, where he received urgent medical care for symptoms including severe coughing and breathlessness. After three weeks in a hospital on Crete, Mr Shaw was able to secure a return flight home, with an attending nurse. 

He was taken straight from the airport to Durham Hospital, where, following a series of tests, Mr Shaw received the devastating news that he was suffering from mesothelioma – an incurable cancer attributed to occupational exposure to asbestos, which often takes place decades before symptoms arise.  

He has since undergone chemotherapy but needs to receive regular immunotherapy treatment, which is not available to him on the NHS, to extend his life expectancy further.  

Following his diagnosis, Mr Shaw instructed asbestos-related disease experts at Thompsons Solicitors through his union membership with Unite to help him determine when and where he was exposed to asbestos and to secure compensation that will help him fund the care that he needs.  

His legal team, led by Stuart Latham, is now looking to speak to anyone who may have worked for his former employers. These people may be able to provide vital information to help Mr Shaw’s case.  

A loving family man who enjoys spending time with his three grandchildren, Mr Shaw spent much of his early career working for Cecil M Yuills Ltd (also known as CM Yuills Ltd). The housebuilding contractor was based in Hartlepool and operated across the North East of the UK. 

Having joined the company as an apprentice joiner in 1953, he worked on various projects across the region before moving on in 1969. He often worked on council housing estates, including the construction of the Manor House housing estate in West Hartlepool. 

Recalling his time working as a joiner, Mr Shaw said he would come into contact with asbestos on a daily basis handling and cutting asbestos sheets to make and fitting roofing, facias and soffits. 

Commenting on his exposure and diagnosis, he said, “My colleagues and I would come into contact with asbestos almost every single day. It was just part and parcel of our work, and we didn’t really give it a second thought. 

“At the time, we were never given any training or protective equipment, and no one made us aware that we could risk our health. 

“Years later, I learnt that it could be dangerous, but my diagnosis still came as a complete shock. I was so active before I fell ill, so it was very hard to come to terms with the fact that my health was deteriorating so rapidly. 

“Sadly, mesothelioma is a condition with no cure. Although I’ve responded well to chemotherapy, I feel that I would benefit hugely from immunotherapy treatment, which is not available to me through the NHS. 

“I would therefore be incredibly grateful to hear from any of my ex-workmates who may have information about the working conditions we experienced, particularly in relation to the presence of asbestos.” 

Mr Shaw’s lawyer, Stuart Latham from Thompsons Solicitors, added: “This has been an extremely difficult time for Mr Shaw and his family, who are still coming to terms with his diagnosis.  

“Whilst we already have some witness statements from former colleagues, we are looking to speak to anyone who worked with Mr Shaw throughout his career, and particularly anyone who worked at Cecil M Yuills Ltd between 1955 and the 1970s. 

“Sadly, immunotherapy treatment cannot cure Mr Shaw’s condition, but it could significantly extend his life expectancy, allowing him to spend more time with his loved ones. It is, therefore, vital that we secure funding for this treatment via his claim.” 

Anyone with information can contact Stuart Latham at Thompsons Solicitors on 01912690410, or via email at stuartlatham@thompsons.law.