Brighton bombing of 1984 may have exposed emergency services rescuers to asbestos

Rescuers who worked at the scene of the deadly IRA bombing in Brighton 32 years ago are being sought after a police officer died from an asbestos-related disease.

Police, fire and ambulance personnel who were involved in the aftermath of the attack are being told there is a very small chance they could have been exposed to asbestos fibres within the debris.

Letters are also being sent to Conservative Party members, Brighton and Hove City Council, and Sussex University Hospital NHS Trust, warning that staff and others could be affected, police said.

brighton bomb
Five people were killed and 34 others were seriously injured when the bomb detonated at the Grand Hotel on Brighton’s seafront in October 1984.

The intended target of the blast was the prime minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher, and her Tory cabinet, who were staying at the hotel during a Conservative party conference.

Steve Barry, Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable, who is co-ordinating an emergency services group, stressed that the likelihood of people having been affected was “very small”. However, he said he felt he had an ethical duty to tell people that a Metropolitan Police officer who had worked at the scene had died from an asbestos-related disease last December. He said:

“We are trying to identify and inform emergency service colleagues and others who may have been exposed to asbestos fibres to offer medical advice and support. I understand that on hearing this news people may be anxious as to whether they have been exposed to asbestos and concerned about the possible effects on their health.

I would like to emphasise that the possibility that they have been affected is very small, but I feel it is the right thing to pass this information on. People could have potentially been exposed to asbestos fibres within the hotel debris and while we know that police officers working at the scene were issued with personal protective equipment, this was some days after the explosion.”

Sussex Police said it was offering its officers health information and support. Barry added:

“By publicising this issue I don’t wish to cause distress but inform people so they can seek health advice from their GP, and to reassure them that the possibility that they have been affected is very small.”