A FORMER seaman whose wife died as a result of washing his asbestos covered work overalls has won an out of court settlement of £62,500 from British Rail.

David Parker, who lives in Blunsdon, took home asbestos fibres on his clothing - which his wife, Sylvia, subsequently washed.

The 66-year-old was employed by British Rail Ferries on the SS Sarnia ship in 1966, working for two months as a greaser in the boiler rooms and engine room.

During his time on the ship, David was asked to repair the pipes and remove the asbestos lagging.

He was given no protective clothing to wear.

Three years ago following his wife's death, David issued an appeal for former shipmates to come forward and provide evidence in his case against British Rail.

Three seamen from Weymouth, who did not work on the same ship as David but were aware of the dangers of asbestos, were prepared to testify on his behalf had the matter gone to court.

"No amount of compensation would ever be enough," said Mr Parker.

David's wife was 68 when she died at home in September 2003 from mesothelioma, which has been dubbed Swindon Disease due to the high number of victims in the town.

"It's a mixture of relief as this has been going on for so long now and a feeling of stress and anger as they are not accepting liability," David said.

"Having said that it shows they have taken some responsibility with the money I have received.

"It gives me some sort of closure and I can now get on with my life."

His case against British Rail was scheduled to be heard in Swindon County Court but his solicitor, Brigitte Chandler of Swindon practice Charles Lucas and Marshall and a specialist in industrial disease claims, announced that British Rail agreed to settle out of court while continuing to deny liability.

He is now looking to invest some of his compensation payout in a memorial chair or bench at the crematorium to commemorate Sylvia's life. David is also looking at a life away from Swindon with the south of France in his retirement plan.

Miss Chandler said: "To date, all defended cases have failed where wives died from washing their husband's contaminated clothing.

"The courts have felt there was no knowledge in the public domain about the danger of asbestos to families before 1965."

Miss Chandler has been successful in settling several similar cases out of court and believes more cases are now emerging.

"As there is no legal precedent. These cases will continue to be resisted by insurers," she added.

"However, any wife who was exposed to asbestos dust after 1965 has a strong case to pursue against their husband's employer."