THE FAMILY of a former British Steel worker who died from an asbestos-related cancer is appealing for former colleagues at an Oldbury firm to help in their quest to discover how he fell ill.

Don Purcell's family is appearing for former workers at BIP (British Industrial Plastics) Limited in Popes Lane, Oldbury and Stewarts and Lloyds Limited to come forward with information on working conditions.

They are making the plea ahead of this year’s Action Mesothelioma Day on July 3.

Don died aged 71, in March 2018, just five months after first experiencing symptoms associated with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining commonly associated with asbestos exposure decades previously.

However, the diagnosis was not confirmed until the date of his death.

After Don died, his widow Diane instructed lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate how her husband came to be exposed to asbestos.

As part of the ongoing investigation, Diane and her son Stuart have joined with their legal team in appealing to Don’s former colleagues at Stewarts and Lloyds Limited or BIP (British Industrial Plastics) Limited to come forward with any information on the working conditions they faced.

Diane, 71, said: “It was devastating to watch Don become so unwell, especially towards the end when he was unable to do much for himself.

“Coming to terms with losing him has been incredibly difficult, and just coping with daily life is a struggle without him. We used to do everything together.

“While nothing will bring him back to me, I need to honour his memory by finding out what led to him developing such an awful disease.

"We would be grateful to anyone that may be able to help.”

Halesowen News:

Alida Coates, lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Don’s loved ones are understandably still struggling to accept what happened to him and have many questions regarding how he developed mesothelioma.

“Through our work, we see many families affected by asbestos many years after initial exposure, and we are determined to help Diane and Stuart obtain the answers they need to try and move forward.

“We would be grateful if anyone could shed light on the conditions that Don worked in. Any information, no matter how big or small, could prove crucial in our efforts.”

Don, of West Bromwich, began an apprenticeship with Stewarts and Lloyds at the age of 16.

By the time he completed his apprenticeship in 1967, he was 21 and the company had become part of the British Steel Corporation.

Diane said: “My understanding was that Don was involved in working across most of the departments around the site during his apprenticeship, to gain an understanding of what was involved in the day-to-day running of the factory.”

Don was based at the machine shop at the Bilport Lane factory, remaining there until its closure in 1981.

He worked his way from a machinist to a charge-hand, finally became a foreman. He was among the final group of workers to leave the site as he helped with disassembling the machinery and ancillary equipment.

Following the Bilport Lane closure, Don retrained as a welder at Wellington Tube Works in West Bromwich.

In 1985, he started working at BIP (British Industrial Plastics) in Oldbury. He worked on the shop floor, filling bags with powder intended to make electrical plug sockets, among other items.

He later worked in inspection and quality control, before being made redundant in the late 1990s.

Don began to feel unwell around October 2017, when he started complaining of a continuous cough and wheezing.

Don was married to Diane for 49 years and was dad to Stuart, 43.

Don’s loved ones are making the appeal ahead of Action Mesothelioma Day on 3 July, which campaigns to raise awareness of this incurable disease, remember those affected by it and help fund research into finding a cure.

Anyone with information about working conditions at the Stewarts and Lloyds / British Steel site on Bilport Lane, Wednesbury between the early 1960s and the early 1980s or the BIP site on Popes Lane, Oldbury between the mid 1980s and the late 1990s can call Alida Coates on 0121 214 5407 or email