Asbestos appeal by retired East London warehouseman hit by cancer 40 years later

A warehouseman who developed an asbestos-related lung cancer 40 years after first being exposed to it in East London is appealing for former workmates to help his legal fight.

William Howlett, now 67, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October and believes his illness has been caused by exposure to asbestos while operating forklift trucks in the 1960s, 70s and 80s at book and magazine distributors Gordon & Gotch in Plaistow.

“The atmosphere was really dusty,” he recalls. “People walking through would leave as soon as possible. Bits of asbestos would flake off whenever the walls were brushed up against.”

His lawyer Nick Greaves, an industrial disease specialist at Fenton’s solicitors, hopes to trace three workmates, Ted Morgan who would now be in his 80s and Ken Meakin and John Hobbs—or any staff who can remember the asbestos dust who could help identify the firm’s insurance company.

He said: “Mr Howlett and his wife are naturally devastated. All he did was work diligently and as a result has developed this dreadful illness.

“His family may not get compensation unless we can locate the firm’s former insurers and prove he was exposed to asbestos.”

The law firm is appealing to anyone working between 1964 and 1982 at Gordon & Gotch, which is thought to have changed its name to Dawson, Royle & Willan in 1986, to contact Nick Greaves on 020-7092 2833, or email

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