JW Roberts was based in Armley, a major suburb of Leeds. The factory manufactured asbestos and it is from there that mesothelioma has become so apparent in Leeds. JW Roberts let asbestos leak out of the factory into the surrounding neighbourhood and took no precautions to keep the local residents, mainly children, from entering the factory grounds. Children would play in and around the factory and in the loading bay where they would play amongst bags of blue asbestos.

The effect on Armley

As shown the asbestos spread over a vast area of Armley and 90 per cent of the homes tested within this area were still contaminated with the blue asbestos dust. There is a decontamination procedure but this costs £7,500 per house, which most residents cannot afford. The asbestos dust is not harmful unless it is disturbed, however any DIY or redecoration would cause it to be disturbed. It can take up to 20 years for mesothelioma to become apparent and it has been claimed that meso will claim hundreds more victims over the next 20 years.

Turner & Newall

Previous claims for mesothelioma had been made but these were by people who had been exposed to asbestos through working in the factory. Never before had someone who had not worked with asbestos made a claim. Should T&N Plc be responsible for residents living near JW Roberts?

Since the dangers of exposure to asbestos had been known since 1899, June argued that JW Roberts should have taken reasonable precautions to prevent the blue asbestos form escaping out of the factory into the local streets. This was however an extremely difficult task as the event had happened over 40 years ago. JW Roberts had closed the Armley factory in 1958. Witnesses who had lived in the area 40 years ago would have to be traced to back up June’s testimony. This, unbelievably, was achieved and many witnesses recalled how the asbestos dust would leak out of the factory ‘like fine candy floss’ and cover the streets and nearby school.

T&N also refused to release crucial information and it was only through American laws that this information was uncovered. One tabloid quoted; “Documents released include a 1964 memorandum describing the growing public awareness that asbestos caused cancer as a sinister development.”

In October 1995, June Hancock won her case and was awarded £65,000. T&N Plc appealed against the decision but again lost. June Hancock was not expected to live through out the court case but amazed everyone with her determination. Unfortunately, June died only two years after the trial, in 1997.

T&N Plc have since moved away from asbestos based industries. It was counted that in 1994 they responsible for at least 39 deaths after spreading asbestos dust into the streets of Armley for over 84 years. T&N Plc have paid over £25 million in damages.

Many claims have since been made due to June’s courage and awareness about exposure to asbestos has been significantly improved. A research fund had been set up since named “The June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund”. The main aim of the fund is to raise money for research into mesothelioma.