Leeds dad-of-two searching for answers after being diagnosed with terminal asbestos cancer

A former vehicle mechanic is appealing for any information after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer linked to asbestos.
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In March, James Kell, from Pudsey, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung which is linked with exposure to asbestos, often decades previously.

After being diagnosed with the disease, the 63-year old, known as Jim, instructed experts on asbestos-related diseases at law firm Irwin Mitchell to investigate his illness and see if any links to his old job could be found. 

Jim described the day he was diagnosed as "the worst day of [his] life. Picture by James Kell/Irwin MitchellJim described the day he was diagnosed as "the worst day of [his] life. Picture by James Kell/Irwin Mitchell
Jim described the day he was diagnosed as "the worst day of [his] life. Picture by James Kell/Irwin Mitchell
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The father-of-two has now joined with his legal team to trace anyone who worked with Jim at G.E. Woods scrap metal merchant in Leeds from 1975 to 1978, and at the car dealership Arnold G Wilson from 1978 to 1984, appealing for his former workmates to come forward.

Nicola Handley, the specialist asbestos-related disease lawyer representing Jim, said: “Through our work we’re instructed by many people whose lives are devastated by asbestos, many years after the initial exposure has occurred.

 “Understandably Jim and his family are devastated by his diagnosis and what it may mean for the future. What’s particularly concerning is Jim has been diagnosed with mesothelioma in his 60s, a relatively young age at which to contract the disease.

 “We’re now determined to support Jim and his family to at least secure the answers they deserve regarding his asbestos exposure.

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 “Therefore if anyone has information about the working conditions Jim would have faced, it could prove vital to our investigation.”

From 1975 to 1978, Jim worked for the scrap metal merchant G E Wood. He believes he may have come into contact with asbestos when breaking up cars and cutting lagging from pipework on the building. G E Wood are no longer trading, and Jim and Irwin Mitchell are appealing for any information about the company.

 In 1978, Jim went to work for Arnold G Wilson as a vehicle mechanic. While there, he was employed at its locations in Harrogate Road and Leeds, where he would regularly work on brakes and clutches.

 He left Arnold G Wilson in 1984 after six years to go and work for the Ministry of Defence, again as a vehicle mechanic and spent the next 12 years working with car parts.

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Jim’s symptoms started to appear in October 2022 when he was admitted to A&E with chest pains. After further investigations, including a CT scan, a mass was detected in his oesophageal curve and a biopsy confirmed that it was mesothelioma in March 2023.  

Because of the progression of the disease within the lining of his lungs, aorta and diaphragm, he was advised to have an extended pleurectomy. 

 Jim, who lives with his wife Bernadette, said: “Being admitted to hospital is always a worry but the mesothelioma diagnosis came as such a huge shock to me and the family. It all happened so quickly. One minute you’re fine and the next you’re facing surgery.

 “The day I was diagnosed was the worst of my life. No one wants to be taken in a room and hear those words from a doctor. I’ve always been a positive person though and I’m determined to stay active and do all I can to overcome this. Since the operation I’m taking short walks with Bernadette to keep busy and build my strength where I can.

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 “At the same time, I’m keen to use this moment to find out more about my exposure to asbestos. It was a while ago now but if anyone remembers me or working at the companies themselves and have any knowledge of the working conditions, I would really welcome them getting in contact.”

He is now appealing for anyone with information that may assist with this case to contact Nicola Handley at Irwin Mitchell on 0113 220 6233 or by e-mail at [email protected].