The family of a County Durham woman who died from an asbestos-related cancer is urging former colleagues to come forward to help throw light on how she was exposed to the deadly material.

Cynthia Burnip was employed by Alexandre Ltd, a garment manufacturer in Peterlee, from approximately 1956 to 1966. She worked as a sewing machinist, and it is believed that she may have encountered asbestos during her employment at what was commonly known as the ‘Alexandre factory’.

Her son, Andrew Burnip, explained: “When mum talked about her days as a seamstress, she recalled the large presses that would steam the suits she was stitching. These presses sat alongside the tables the women worked at and would go off every few minutes to press the suits before packing. It is possible that these presses were insulated with some sort of asbestos and that is what we are trying to find out.”

Andrew and the wider family, including his brother Paul, are devastated by the loss of their mum in May.

old photograph of woman and man
Do you recognise Cynthia Burnip?

Mr Burnip said: “She was a very active older lady who loved walking with friends – and would even do a popular five-mile walk around her hometown on occasions. She was sweet and kind and loved shopping and eating out with friends – but more than anything she was devoted to her family.

“In the spring of last year, she began to feel unwell with a cough and breathing difficulties. She was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April, and within a month she was viciously taken away from us.”

Following her death, Mr Burnip sought the help of Thompsons Solicitors to find out what caused her untimely death.

He said: “My dad was a local councillor for years and a big union man. He would want those who were responsible to be held accountable.”

Stuart Latham, of Thompsons Solicitors, added: “We are looking to speak with anyone who was employed at Alexandre Ltd’s Peterlee site in or around the 1960’s who may be able to provide further information into working practices at the site. It’s really important that Mrs Burnip’s family get the answers they deserve.”

Anyone with further information should contact Stuart Latham at Thompsons on 0191 269 0410, or by email at