THE husband and daughter of a woman who died of asbestos-related cancer are appealing to her former co-workers to help establish how she contracted the terminal disease.
Margaret Wilks, 77, a former Yorkley factory worker, died just four months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining associated with exposure to asbestos.
She had asked asbestos disease specialists at the Irwin Mitchell law firm to investigate the source of her illness and establish whether she might have encountered asbestos at work.
Following her death, her husband David, 79, and daughter Melissa Wilks, 42, are now continuing the investigation in Margaret’s memory.
In January this year Gloucestershire Deputy Coroner Roland Wooderson recorded a narrative finding confirming that she died of mesothelioma and believed she had been exposed to asbestos in the course of her work.
Her family have joined their legal team at Irwin Mitchell to seek details from Margaret’s former work colleagues about the conditions she allegedly faced during her career.
They are keen to track down everyone who worked at the J Allen Rubber Company, later known as the London Rubber Company.
Margaret worked at the company’s factories in Lydney and Whitecroft as a packer, and later as a manager, from 1959 to 1980.
Asbestos disease lawyer Rebecca Buxton said by coming forward they could help David and Melissa get the answers and conclusion they need.
Ms Buxton said: “”Mesothelioma is a terrible disease and Margaret’s family are understandably still in shock after her sudden death.
“His diagnosis and death left them struggling to come to terms with an unexpected event that turned their world upside down.
“Despite her illness, Margaret was determined to uncover the truth about her illness and we are determined to support David and Melissa as they continue the search for answers in her memory.
“While nothing can make up for Margaret’s death, people providing information could make all the difference in the investigation and at least provide David and Melissa with the answers and conclusion they deserve.”
Ms Wilks left school at 15 and went to work for J Allen Ltd in Lydney, before moving to the company’s other factory in Whitecroft.
At the Lydney plant, she worked in a large open-plan packing area as a packer before being promoted to team leader.
The room was half the size of a football field, allowing hundreds of employees – including packers and janitors – to work alongside it.
Following her diagnosis, Margaret explained to her legal team that she believed that several other colleagues had developed an asbestos-related disease.
Margaret’s sister, Gaynor, also worked at the factory for a short time.
She said the factory in Lydney was old and in poor condition, so she was happy to move to the new factory in Whitecroft in the mid-1970s.
There she packed rubber items such as gloves and balloons, which may have contained industrial talc, leaving in 1980, when her daughter Melissa was born.
Margaret Wilks on her wedding day in 1968 (Tindle )
David and Margaret married in 1968 and had a full and active life together.
Margaret enjoyed bowling and knitting in her spare time. She loved all sports and also enjoyed watching them on TV. Margaret had no grandchildren and Melissa was her only child.
Fit and healthy prior to her mesothelioma diagnosis, Margaret rarely saw a doctor, until in the spring of 2021 she began losing weight and suffering from shortness of breath. She was admitted to the hospital and stayed there for five weeks between May and June.
Following tests, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma last August. She passed away on December 19, 2021, with David and Melissa by her side.
David said: “Margaret was a wonderful wife and mother and it’s always so hard to accept that she’s no longer with us.
“Margaret had been in good shape all her life, so her illness and diagnosis of mesothelioma came as a huge shock. We had barely had time to accept her when she passed away.
“We had been told about mesothelioma, but we could hardly believe things could change so quickly. Margaret was a practical woman and immediately set to work to find out how she might have come into contact with asbestos. However, she went from being an active person who enjoyed going out and shopping to someone who was dependent on others for her care.
“If anyone employed at either of the factories remembers Margaret or the working conditions and could contact us, that would be a big help.
“Melissa lost her mother and I lost my wife and my best friend. Life will never be the same for us, but we want to honor Margaret’s memory by understanding how she contracted this terrible disease.
Anyone with information that may be helpful is asked to contact Rebecca Buxton at [email protected] or call 0117 926 1574.