THE death of a loving grandfather from an asbestos-related lung cancer has led to his family launching a compensation claim.

Sandiway native Christopher Lees worked for ICI in Northwich and Runcorn for close to 40 years, after leaving school in 1955 until his retirement in the early 1990s.

In February, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma – an aggressive and terminal lung cancer caused by breathing in asbestos dust and fibres – and sadly passed away on May 17 aged 79.

A father of two daughters and grandfather of four, Christopher was also the main carer for his wife, Gillian, who has a lung condition and severe arthritis.

He was a regular and respected church goer, but his family were unable to give him a proper funeral because of coronavirus restrictions.

Despite this and the severely restricted numbers allowed at his burial, that did not stop his family, friends and parishioners from lining the funeral route on the day to send him off.

It is believed that he was exposed to asbestos while working at ICI in Winnington and the company’s Castner Kellner site in Runcorn.

Nicola Johnson, Christopher’s daughter, said: “In just six months, dad went from helping me with the school run and being Mum’s fulltime carer to not being here at all.

“He just deteriorated so fast and was in a huge amount of pain constantly at the end.

“I remember taking him to get the results of his biopsy. We sat there holding hands, both expecting bad news, as we didn’t think we’d be lucky enough to get away with it. Devastatingly, we were right.

“He was really upset and so scared in the car on the journey home. He told me what his wishes were and how we were going to cope with it."

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Christopher receiving his 20-year service award

“We were told he could have chemotherapy to extend his life, and for the next two weeks he’d pick himself up and push himself to go out for walks to keep himself fit to be ready to face what was coming next.

“Then Covid-19 hit, and all bets were off.”

Birchall Blackburn Law is helping Christopher’s family make an industrial disease compensation claim and is seeking the memories and recollections from former ICI employees.

Christopher started in the research and development department and from 1968 to 1975 worked on the development of Monnex, which required him to wear an asbestos suit.

In 1975 Christopher moved to ICI’s Castner Kellner site to work as a safety advisor, improving working conditions and reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.

In 1988/89 Christopher returned to work at Winnington and Lostock sites as a safety advisor.

Victoria Roberts, an industrial disease specialist solicitor at Birchall Blackburn Law, said: “Mesothelioma is a cruel lung cancer that takes decades to develop after exposure to asbestos dust and fibres.

“It can be difficult to find evidence about where exactly the exposure took place, which is why we need the help of former ICI employees who worked in Northwich and Runcorn.

“We would be interested to hear from anyone who worked in the research and development department at Winnington and might be able to assist with a description of the fire suits used, as well as anyone who worked at Castner Kellner and can provide information about the maintenance procedure and the use and presence of asbestos on site.”

Anyone who knows about the presence of asbestos at ICI in Northwich and Castner Kellner in Runcorn is asked to call Victoria confidentially on 01244 688763 or email