A Grandmother who lost four members of her family to devastating asbestos-related diseases will be given the chance this week to vote to receive compensation.

Maria Sillito, 60, who was born just yards away from the Washington Chemical Company factory, said she would finally get closure on decades of heartache when she signs the voting form.

Maria, who now lives in Carlisle, lost her mum, Elsie Ashford, her dad, Thomas Ashford and her Aunt Jean Greenwell to devastating lung diseases caused by years working in the asbestos factory.

Her brother, also called Thomas Ashford, died of mesothelioma aged just 46, after working with asbestos dust in the factory for three years.

Maria herself suffers from pleural plaques, a condition where the lining of the lungs is scarred by exposure to asbestos fibres. The condition is a sign that she is vulnerable to killer conditions like mesothelioma and asbestosis, which can take up to 30 years to develop.

Maria never worked for the Washington Chemical Company, later known as Turner and Newall, but was exposed to asbestos when washing her parents' and brother’s clothes.

She was oblivious to the dangers of asbestos as a child while she played in mountains of the white dust outside her front garden, making ‘cake mix’ out of water and asbestos.

Compensation to be awarded

Now Maria is being given the chance to claim compensation from parent company Federal Mogul.

She is among thousands of North East asbestos victims who are being given the opportunity to vote on a long awaited compensation pay out this September.

Claimants who are being represented by Thompsons Solicitors, will this week receive their papers with instructions from their legal team.

Parent company Federal Mogul went into administration in 2001, freezing all compensation payments.

Now victims and their families will finally get their money with some claims worth up to £100,000.

Maria said: “Wasington Chemical Company got away with murder. That factory wiped out my entire family. I have watched all my life as my loved ones have died painful deaths caused by working with asbestos.

“I still feel so angry and get so upset thinking about it. I’ve developed pleural plaques and it frightens me that I may develop mesothelioma. I did not work in the factory. I just lived nearby and through no fault of my own I have developed this. It is always at the back of my mind.”

She added: “I think my family have been treated shabbily by Washington Chemical Company. I have been waiting for so long for this to come to an end. All I want is closure.”

Ian McFall, head of the asbestos team at Thompson Solicitors in Newcastle, who are advising hundreds of North East claimants said: “Mrs Sillito has watched as her close family has been taken one by one by asbestos related disease. Her parents, aunt and brother were never told the devastating effects of working with asbestos and paid the price for trying to make a living.

“Unfortunately working practices at the Washington Chemical Company factory means many other families will have similar tales to tell.

“These voting forms, which are being sent out to claimants this week, marks a step towards justice for victims and their families.”

To read a previous story published by Thompsons Solicitors about the Washington Chemical Works visit "Compensation for victims of asbestos".