The family of a Sunderland woman who died after developing an asbestos-related cancer is urging her ex-colleagues at the Austin and Pickersgill shipyard to come forward with information about her working conditions.

Muriel Jeffrey died in June 2018, aged 85, within months of being diagnosed with the asbestos disease, mesothelioma.

She worked at the Austin and Pickersgill shipyard on the River Wear from 1970 to 1984, as a secretary and later personal assistant. Labourers from the ships would often visit her office to speak with Muriel and her managers.

Muriel Jeffrey wearing a light blue jumper by a wooden wall
Muriel Jeffrey during the time she worked at Austin and Pickersgill

At one point during her employment, Muriel recollected how large sheds near her office were demolished, causing a significant amount of dust to settle on her desk.

Now, her family is searching for her former colleagues in the hope they can help ascertain how she was exposed to asbestos at the yard and help them make a compensation claim.

“This illness completely changed my aunt’s life,” said her nephew, Bryan Glasper. “She was an active and social member of the community, and never failed to miss the local choir, but within months of diagnosis this all came to a stop.

“My aunt was a familiar face for hundreds of tradesmen throughout her years at Austin and Pickersgill, as she would regularly speak with them if they had issues to raise with senior management. I’m hoping this will mean there is someone out there who can help our family with its search and ensure we get answers about how she became so ill.”

Tim Hayward, of Thompsons Solicitors, added: “There’s a well-known link between the shipbuilding industry and asbestos, so we’re keen to investigate whether it was Muriel’s work at the shipyard that caused her to develop this disease.

“If anyone has more information about the use of asbestos at the shipyard, please call me on 0191 269 0623 or email me on”