BRITISH Rail has paid out nearly £100,000 to friends of a railway worker more than three years after he died of undiagnosed asbestosis.

The now defunct rail firm was ordered by a court to pay £98,000 in compensation to the executors of Lesley Jeffries’ estate, whose asbestosis symptoms remained undiagnosed for five years prior to his death.

Mr Jeffries, of Folkestone Road, Old Town , died in 2009 after four years of very poor health. He had to give up work early, could not manage without an oxygen mask due to significant breathing problems, and needed nursing care.

He was never told in his lifetime that he had an asbestos related illness so was unable to bring a claim against British Rail himself. His friends appointed Swindon solicitor Brigitte Chandler to pursue a claim when Mr Jeffries’ condition was diagnosed through a post-mortem.

“Although we did not have a statement from Mr Jeffries, we were able to pursue the claim through collecting statements from work colleagues,” she said.

“They confirmed the asbestos exposure.”

Miss Chandler, a leading industrial disease lawyer and partner with law firm, Charles Lucas & Marshall, has represented hundreds of railway workers over the last 30 years.

She urged anyone who worked at the Swindon Railway Works who develops breathing difficulties to seek medical advice.

“Unfortunately the hospital was never able to advise whether it was asbestosis,” she said. “The executors received £98,000 for the pain and suffering Mr Jeffries suffered and for the nursing care which he needed in the years leading up to his death.”

Mr Jeffries worked for British Rail between 1960 and 1968 and again from 1979 to 1986 and worked in a number of different railway shops, including the AE shop. He was extensively exposed to asbestos as he was working in areas where asbestos was being removed and replaced on locomotives and he worked on engines lagged with asbestos.

Miss Chandler said: “There are still many people in Swindon who worked in the railway industry who are being affected by asbestos exposure. On a more positive note, British Rail is now well aware of the problem and, providing someone can show they worked there and were exposed to asbestos, most claims are now generally settled out of court.”

The Swindon and South West Asbestos Group is a regional charity which provides support groups and a free advice service to people suffering from asbestos disease and their families.

They now offer home visits to sufferers in the Swindon area to advise on benefits available.

For further details contact Swindon and South West Asbestos Group, call 01793 532995, email or visit