A Welsh seamstress, who once made clothes for household names like Laura Ashley, has died from an asbestos related illness in her 50s – and her family believe her former employers are responsible.

Carol Thomas was a machinist at Steinbergs, in Port Talbot, and Michael’s Fashions, (also known as Theros Ltd) in Maesteg, during the 1970s and 1980s. She died three years ago, aged just 55, after a battle with the asbestos cancer, known as mesothelioma.

Now her family is asking anyone who remembers working with Ms Thomas during those years to come forward.

Ms Thomas’s career started as soon as she left school in 1978 and it is thought that she was exposed to asbestos for most of her working years. Prior to her death, she spoke of pipes running through the factories which were lagged with asbestos insulation. The pipes fed irons and steam presses, which were used to put seams and pleats in to garments - the irons themselves also sat on asbestos plates. Sometimes the pipes and plates would get damaged and would have to be repaired by maintenance workers while Ms Thomas and her colleagues worked nearby.

Her family believe that it is this exposure to asbestos that caused her illness.

Carol Thomas died of mesothelioma aged 55

Ms Thomas’ sister, Christine Flynn, said: “Carol was a single parent and now her son Kyle is without his mum. Kyle is 26 and has special needs, having been diagnosed with autism. He lives with me and my husband now, but we are nearing 60 and won’t be here forever. We are worried for his future and we want him to be secure.”

Mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by asbestos and often develops decades after exposure. According to the Health and Safety Executive, mesothelioma killed 2,446 people in Great Britain in 2018.

Ms Thomas’ family is being supported by J.M. Parsons & Co Solicitors, a Llanelli-based company and partner company to Thompsons Solicitors, who paved the way for asbestos litigation in the UK ever since it brought about the first successful asbestos disease claim to the House of Lords in 1972. As a point of principle, Thompsons only represents workers and their families who have developed asbestos diseases and never acts for employers or insurance companies. It is also one of a handful of specialist firms in the UK to be a member of the Mesothelioma UK Legal Panel in recognition of its expertise.

The family’s solicitor, Amanda Jones, said: “Sadly, it is likely that Carol will not be the only person who suffered because of working in an asbestos filled environment. We want to hear from anyone else who recalls the presence of asbestos at Steinbergs or Michael’s Fashions to get in touch. It is not too late to find answers.”

Amanda Jones at J.M. Parsons & Co Solicitors can be contacted on 01554 779940.