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Vodafone employee died from industrial disease

Loving husband and father was exposed to asbestos in previous career

John Garvey

John Garvey


01635 886628

Dying 'countryman' took his own life

A VODAFONE engineer died from lung cancer, decades after being exposed to asbestos in a previous job, an inquest heard.

It was so long ago that Richard Thomson worked with the deadly substance that he initially could not recall having done so, the hearing in Reading Town Hall was told on Thursday, November 7.

Mr Thomson died at his home in York Road, Newbury, on September 11, aged 63.

His widow Jacqueline told the inquest that her husband had worked on the railways in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s.

She said: “He went there when he was just seven. He became a very successful engineer.”

Their son Clive added: “I would say this is due to the work on the railways.

“That’s what he thought.

“In those days asbestos was a widely-used material. But the symptoms only started showing up 40 years later.”

Assistant Berkshire coroner Ian Wade said: “You breathe in these tiny, tiny fibres and they sit there and do nothing.

“Then, 40 years later they can come alive and a tumour forms.”

The inquest heard that Mr Thomson returned 21 years ago and worked for Vodafone as an engineer and that he died not long after being diagnosed with mesothelioma – a cancer of the lung lining usually linked to asbestos exposure.

Mr Wade said: “Science tells me that it’s 99-per-cent certain that the mesothelioma was contracted through exposure to asbestos.

“During his career as a telephone engineer he spent many years in South Africa.

“He must have been exposed to asbestos during the time he was assisting in the construction of the railway’s telecommunications system.”

Mr Wade recorded that death was due to an industrial disease.

A notice announcing his death published in this newspaper said Mr Thomson was a “loving husband to Jackie, brother to Peter, Liz and Judy and Dad to Clive”. 

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Article comments

  • Bored of registering

    03/12/2019 - 13:14

    That's awful news, a friends dad died from exposure to asbestos in the 70's its a horrible way to go, but i'm sorry i have a massive issue with the headline. It is portraying that the cause of death was due to working at Vodafone, how is it a relevant headline having his employer in it? If i was VF legal i would be all over this. When people die, is it standard practice to name their employer even if it has no relevance to the story? PS. I do not work for VF! Rest in peace Richard.


    • NewburyLad

      04/12/2019 - 19:11

      I am more annoyed that 2 days later the article, complete with misleading headline, is still there. Yet the other day someone copy/pasted the article text hidden behind their "paywall" into a couple of comments, and within minutes admin had removed the comments. If they can be quick to read and act on that comment, surely they can be just as quick to read your comment and react.


    • anorak

      04/12/2019 - 06:41

      My thoughts exactly. The fact that the guy worked for Vodafone has absolutely no relevance. I am amazed that the NWN has not been forced to issue some kind of clarification or retraction of the headline.