A former shipwright who was exposed to asbestos while working as an apprentice for three Tyneside shipyards has received compensation after being diagnosed with a fatal cancer.

John Birkett, 65, from Washington, was diagnosed with mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos. There is no known cure for the disease.

He was exposed to the deadly dust while working as 15-year-old apprentice for Vickers Armstrong at shipyards in Walker and Hebburn.

Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation

Following his diagnosis he contacted asbestos compensations specialists Thompsons Solicitors in Newcastle for advice. Thompsons secured an out of court settlement against all three shipyards’ insurers.

Mr Birkett, who has a stepson and two grandchildren, said: “I’ve always been fit and healthy therefore when I was diagnosed with mesothelioma it was a huge shock. I was exposed to asbestos from when I was just 15. It’s difficult to believe that all these years later I am suffering as a result of the jobs I did decades earlier.”

Gill Connelly from Thompsons Solicitors’ Newcastle office added: “Sadly many people in the North East are affected by asbestos disease, particularly those who worked in shipbuilding and other industries, at a time when employers knew about the harmful effect of asbestos but failed to make sure workers were properly protected.

“This compensation will ensure Mr Birkett has the benefit of knowing that his claim is finalised and can make plans for his family. I am pleased to have helped him and his family at this difficult time.”