Daughter of Vauxhall plant worker appeals for information after mum's asbestos-related cancer death

  • Emma Baker speaks to ITV News Anglia's Ravneet Nandra about her mother's cancer diagnosis and whether the illness could have been linked to work.

The daughter of a former car factory worker who died from an asbestos-related cancer has vowed to continue fighting for answers about why her mother was exposed.

Deborah Darroch was 67 when she died from mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lining of lung almost always linked to asbestos.

In Mrs Darroch's case, it was only after her death that a post-mortem examination confirmed her diagnosis.

Mrs Darroch worked on the car production line at the Vauxhall plant in Luton between 1975 and 1980, and lawyers are investigating whether this played a part in her death.

Vauxhall representatives have been approached by ITV News but have so far declined to comment.

Mrs Darroch's daughter Emma Baker is now appealing for her mother's ex-workmates to come forward with information about conditions in the factory at the time.

Emma Baker is appealing to her mother's ex-workmates to come forward with information. Credit: ITV Anglia

"I made a promise to my mum when she was dying that I would find out what happened to her," she told ITV News Anglia.

"I made her a promise and I intend to keep that promise."

More than 2,700 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK every year, and symptoms typically only present themselves several decades after initial exposure.

Lawyers investigating Mrs Darroch's case believe doctors may have missed her diagnosis after she was sent for an MRI in March 2023 which didn't show anything to be concerned about.

A later chest x-ray in June then confirmed she had cancer, before she died at St John’s Hospice in Moggerhanger, Bedfordshire, in August of that year.

Mrs Darroch worked at the Luton plant from 1975 to 1980 as a production operator. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"She was complaining early January last year of a back and shoulder pain," said Mrs Baker.

"The pain was getting aggressively worse. She couldn't walk sometimes.

"Her symptoms, I have never seen anybody in the amount of pain that she was in. Constantly couldn't talk, couldn't cough, couldn't walk. And I just wasn't happy with what I was being told."

Vauxhall is one of the biggest employers in Luton, and will this year celebrate its 120th anniversary in the town.

Deborah's husband, Martin, also worked at the plant. He died aged 56 from pancreatic cancer. Credit: Emma Baker

In 2019, electrician John Carey won a high court battle against the company after his wife Lydia died from the same cancer as Mrs Darroch.

The court heard she'd been washing his overalls which had been contaminated with poisonous dust from pipework.

Mrs Darroch's husband Martin also worked at the plant and died from pancreatic cancer in August 2008.

"Mesothelioma is a long-term disease," said Mrs Baker's lawyer, Rosemary Giles.

"It takes many many years to actually manifest itself. So we're often looking at exposure 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. It is an industrial disease and therefore we tend to look at places where people have worked in heavy industry."

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