Former Merchant Navy sailor died from asbestos-related cancer after a career exposed to deadly substance

A MAN who followed his dream by travelling the seas was dealt a cruel hand after dying from an asbestos-related cancer after being exposed to deadly particles while in the merchant navy.

Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 3:22 pm
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 2:07 pm

Paul Wellman embarked on countless journeys overseas while working in the engine room as an electrician’s mate where he was routinely exposed to the killer substance, Portsmouth Coroner’s Court heard.

Mr Wellman started his career working on railways in the 1960s before following his passion to work for the merchant navy, where he would undertake long voyages such as a Cunard trip on the old Queen Elizabeth to New York.

The 72-year-old died of mesothelioma on August 31 last year after collapsing in Hayling Island before being taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital.

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The Coroner's Court in Portsmouth, Hampshire

He had been sent for tests after complaining of an irritating cough and shortness of breath in October 2018 but did not see a doctor until the following March following his wife’s death two months earlier.

Despite initial tests being inconclusive doctors identified the cancer in the left lung - resulting in 1.8 litres of fluid being drained from his body.

Mr Wellman had two lots of chemotherapy before losing five stone in weight as he deteriorated.

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Before his death, Mr Wellman wrote a statement as part of a claim he made for help and compensation following his struggles with the illness, which was read out to the hearing.

In it he wrote: ‘I was working as an electrician’s mate, there were no masks or gloves. I would take away any pipes and replace old lagging.

‘When removing lagging there was a great deal of airborne dust. When I put the lagging back in there was a lot of dust. I couldn’t avoid breathing it in.

‘I believe I was exposed to asbestos regularly.’

Mr Wellman, who lived in Bitterne, retired in 2006 from a career spanning five decades where he would often set sail from Portsmouth and Southampton.

His GP Sarah Young, in a written statement, said she last saw Mr Wellman in March last year when he was ‘coughing and spewing’.

Coroner Samantha Marsh told the hearing: ‘Mr Wellman was exposed to asbestos while lagging pipes and working in the boiler room. Sadly at this time people weren’t aware of the dangers.’

The coroner concluded Mr Wellman died of an industrial disease after being exposed to asbestos in the workplace.

After the hearing Mr Wellman’s brother Anthony said: ‘He loved being at sea. Even when he came home on leave he would be off somewhere on trips overseas.

‘Over the years he came to realise the dangers from the work he was doing. There are questions to answer over the products and the way they did things back then.’