THE heartbroken family of a man who died of Covid-19 are re-issuing an appeal for information after an inquest revealed that he was also suffering from asbestosis.

Thomas Littler from Earlestown, was 90 when he was rushed to Whiston Hospital Merseyside with a range of symptoms including a high temperature.

Despite the best efforts of the medical staff, he died on February 4, 2021.

An inquest at Bootle Town Hall later revealed that he had died as a result of Covid-19 Pneumonia.

However, the Coroner also confirmed that he had suffered from Asbestosis - a chronic lung condition caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos and that this had contributed towards his death.

Devastated by the news, his wife Kathleen and his three sons Peter, Antony and Stuart instructed industrial disease lawyers at Simpson Millar to investigate when and where he was exposed to asbestos, and whether more could have been done to protect him.

They appealed to anyone who may have worked alongside him at British Rail between 1944 and 1983 to come forward in March with information about the working conditions.

One person did come forward, but has now sadly passed away. 

In light of that they are reissuing their appeal in a bid to find others who may be able to help them.

As part of a career spanning almost 40 years with British Rail, Thomas had carried out a number of roles, including that of a trade apprentice, then an apprentice Wheelwright, before working as a qualified Wheelwright at British Rail’s Earlestown site.

In 1963 he then moved to British Rail’s Horwich Works site near Bolton where he continued as a Wheelwright before moving onto refurbishing railway passenger carriages as well as working on container and wagon repairs between 1970 and 1983.

Speaking after Thomas’ death his wife, Kathleen, who he met at the Ashton Pro Dance hall in 1949, having paid sixpence entry to watch a live band on a Saturday, said: “We are still trying to come to terms with Thomas’ death. He was such a loving person and will be greatly missed by us all.

“To have lost him in the height of the pandemic when there were a lot of restrictions around funerals and hospital visits was particularly hard, and to think his illness could have been made worse as a result of an underlying lung condition is devastating.

“As a family, we are desperate to understand how and when he may have come into contact with asbestos, and whether more could have been done to keep him safe.”

Well known and well liked locally, at the weekend Thomas was often found cycling around the local villages of Burtonwood, Winick, Culcheth and Croft.

Having worked on the railways for most of his life he was also a keen railway enthusiast and was often found at steam rallies.

In retirement Thomas and Kathleen fell in love with Spain and would try to get out there three or four times a year. They continued this for several years before ill health forced them to stop.

The family’s lawyer, specialist industrial disease expert Anthony Waddington from Simpson Millar, said the family is keen to hear from anyone who might have information about exposure to asbestos with British Rail at any of the sites that Mr Littler worked at between 1944 and 1983.

He said: “Mr Littler had a fascinating career with British Rail, starting as a trade apprentice in Earlestown in Newton-le-Willows in 1944, before moving to Horwich Works in 1969.

“It has been deeply upsetting for the family to learn that he had been suffering from Asbestosis, and that the condition contributed to his death.

“They are now looking for answers as to whether more could and should have been done to protect him from asbestos exposure and are keen to hear from anyone who has information about the working conditions he may have been exposed to throughout his working life.

“We are particularly keen to hear from anyone who worked with him during his time either at Earlestown or the Horwich Works between 1944 and 1983when he would have come into regular contact with the carriage heating systems.”

Anthony added: “There are over 5,000 asbestos-related deaths per year and this is a figure that continues to increase and devastate the lives of victims as well as their families.  “While the dangers of asbestos have been known for many decades there are still, sadly, many people dying prematurely because of related illnesses, because they were not made aware of its presence and were not provided with protective equipment.”

If you have any information about Mr Littler and the working conditions at British Rail between 1944 and 1983, you can contact Anthony Waddington at Simpson Millar on, or on 0345 357 9200.