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MoD Faces Legal Action After Gran’s Asbestos Death is Linked to Fire at Donnington Army Base

MoD Faces Legal Action After Gran’s Asbestos Death is Linked to Fire at Donnington Army Base

A family is launching legal action against the MoD after their mum’s death was linked to a fire at a military base, which scattered toxic asbestos ‘like snow.’

Susan Maughan, 63, lived near COD Donnington in Telford, Shropshire, at the time of the 1983 blaze when an old army storage warehouse went up in flames.

An inquest held last year ruled she had died from mesothelioma, a rare and terminal cancer caused by asbestos, which a coroner said she had ‘almost certainly’ been exposed to in the aftermath.

Daughters, Lorraine, Sonia and Cath, who remember playing in the ‘snow’ as children, now fear they too could be harbouring the same disease.

The deaths of Ellen Paddock, 31, and Paula Ann Nunn, 68, both from mesothelioma, have also previously been linked to the fire.asbestos lawyer

Lorraine, 45, who was just 12 at the time, said: “I remember grey snowflakes falling from the sky on to our street and our garden. My sisters and I played in it thinking it was Christmas.

“My mother always liked tidiness, even in her garden. I remember watching her picking up the debris off the floor and putting it into our garden bin.”

According to reports from the time, the fire scattered ash containing asbestos across a 15 square mile area, but the army initially denied that it was dangerous and it stayed there for five days before being cleaned up.

The family’s lawyers, who are also dealing with another two cases in relation to the same fire, are now investigating whether more should have been done to protect them.

Susan, who went on to have son Allan, 27, was a grandmother of eight and had just become a great grandma when she died of mesothelioma in October last year.

The incurable cancer is caused by inhaling or ingesting dust or fibres from asbestos, but can lie dormant in the body for decades before sufferers realise something is wrong.  

Susan was living in Winsford, Cheshire, at the time of her death, having retired from jobs, including as a cleaner and a hairdresser, but her family says she had no other memory of coming into contact with asbestos.

They are now appealing for old friends and neighbours near their then home on Millstream Way, Leegomery, to get in touch.

Mother-of-three Cath, 37, who now lives near Southport, added: “What happened to our mum was devastating. She went from being this full of life person to just this empty shell and it was so painful for her at the end.

“I do worry that the same thing could happen to us. I talk quite openly about it with my family, even my children. I do get upset, but I always say I’m going to live for today and if it comes I have prepared myself.”

Madelene Holdsworth, an industrial disease specialist at law firm Slater and Gordon, who is acting on the family’s behalf, said: “They have already lost their mum and now fear they too could be victims of this devastating disease. That knowledge is a terrible thing to have to live with and they understandably want answers about whether more could have been done.”

Anyone with information, particularly anyone who remembers the incident and the aftermath, is asked to contact Madelene Holdsworth on 0161 383 3308 or email

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