The family of a Yorkshire man, who died of an asbestos disease just days after catching COVID-19 in hospital, is appealing for his former colleagues to support a legal claim.

John Howitt, 72, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in September 2019, and died in June 2020 on account of the asbestos disease.

From the outset of the pandemic, he shielded as advised and didn’t leave the house. His pre-existing mesothelioma meant he was extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and a few days after visiting hospital for a routine checkup, he tested positive for COVID-19.

His family believe he was exposed to asbestos when he worked for the National Coal Board (NCB) near Wath between 1965 and 1970, or at Jackson Shipley Ltd (which later became Jackson Building Centres Ltd, and then Graftons) between 1994 and 2010.

John Howitt pictured in his younger years
John Howitt pictured in his younger years

His job at the NCB involved working on top of the pit, in the workshops and underground, while his job at Jackson Shipley Ltd saw him working in a warehouse building, dealing with hiring out various tools and machines. Prior to his death, Mr Howitt recalled a renovation project at the warehouse that caused him to breathe in dust, which may have been asbestos.

He also worked at the Amoco service station in Mexborough from 1971 to 1973. Following the recent death of the station’s former owner from lung cancer, the family suspect Mr Howitt may have been exposed to asbestos there too.

Claire Howitt, his daughter, is urging anyone who might have worked with her father or who has information to come forward and help support the family with their legal claim.

She said: “My father, especially in the last year during the pandemic, took great care of his health. He went into hospital for a routine visit and never come out – and we have been left heartbroken.

“The whole experience has been so difficult, and as a family we need answers as to why he contracted this asbestos disease in the first place.”

Marion Voss, asbestos specialist at Thompsons Solicitors, added: “We would be grateful to speak with anyone who remembers working alongside John at the NCB, Jackson Shipley or Amoco service station.

“Any individuals who come forward will be invaluable to his family, as they may be able to add important information that will assist us in building a legal claim on the family’s behalf.”

John Howitt