Coroner decides asbestos now cleared from Wandsworth tower block was a “ticking timebomb”

By Sian Bayley BBC Local Government Correspondent


A coroner has expressed concern about a “ticking time bomb” in some council properties after she concluded a woman died of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos in her flat.

Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox found that Linda Johns, 51, died of bronchopneumonia and malignant mesothelioma at St George’s Hospital in August 2018 during an inquest at Westminster Coroner’s Court on Tuesday (November 5).

In her record of the inquest Dr Wilcox concluded that Ms Johns’ exposure to asbestos while resident at Eliot Court, above the Southside Shopping Centre in Wandsworth “led to and caused malignant mesothelioma”.

Because Ms Johns was unemployed, and could not have been exposed to asbestos while at work, the coroner concluded the “only reasonable place she can have been exposed to asbestos was while she was resident in flats at 8 Eliot court, Garratt Lane.”

The court heard asbestos was recorded in her flat at 8 Eliot Court, Garratt Lane in 1984, and that panels and boards containing it were removed by the council in 2003.

A letter from the pathologist said malignant mesothelioma has an extremely strong association with asbestos exposure, and there is often a long delay between exposure to asbestos and the development of the cancer.

Ms Johns was not diagnosed until July 2018, and died shortly after.

Dr Wilcox said: “Other residents may still be living in Wandsworth still exposed to asbestos.

“There may be other people out there who have been exposed, with a ticking time bomb waiting for them.”

She asked Peter Dunstan, a senior technical manager involved in major works at Wandsworth council, about the works to identify and remove asbestos from council buildings.

He said he had not heard of any other deaths of Wandsworth residents due to asbestos and that the council is involved in the controlled removal of asbestos where it is found.

Speaking after the inquest, a spokesperson from Wandsworth Council said: “This is a very sad case involving the death of a woman at a relatively young age. We would like to send her family and friends our deepest condolences.

“We are awaiting the coroner’s written verdict and the reasons she gives for reaching her conclusions and will carefully consider what she says. However we are not aware of any incident that occurred in Miss Johns’ property that could have caused her illness.”

Pictured: Eliot Court towers 25 floors over the stores of Southside Sh0pping Centre

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