Police payout to family of officer killed by asbestos from 1984 Brighton bombing

The family of a police officer who died after being exposed to asbestos after The Grand hotel bombing have received a payout from police, the Brighton Argus has reported.

Metropolitan Police officer Jonathan Woods became known as the “sixth victim” of the IRA attack on Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet. One of the first on the scene after the blast, Mr Woods contracted mesothelioma and died last year.

After his death Sussex Police issued an alert to emergency workers who went to the bombing that they could have been exposed to asbestos.

Mr Wood’s widow Sharon sued Sussex Police and the Metropolitan Police for compensation, saying emergency service workers were not warned of the risks of asbestos in the clean up operation.

They have now received an undisclosed payout in a out-of-court settlement. The former bomb squad officer issued a writ against both Sussex Police and the Met in August 2014, claiming he was not given adequate protection at the blast site.

He developed mesothelioma, an incurable cancer caused by asbestos fibres in the lung lining. The condition can remain undetected for decades.

Sussex Police accepted liability for Mr Wood’s death, but he died in a French hospital in 2015 before his case could be concluded. His widow Sharon took up the claim on his behalf in his memory and it has now been settled. Sussex Police said yesterday:

“The claim involving the one deceased Metropolitan Police officer was settled in February this year. The claim amount was split between Sussex Police and the Met Police. We will not be going into the details of the amount of the settlement.”

The former bomb squad officer was one of the first at the scene after the blast in October 1984 which killed five and injured 34.

Lawyers for Mr Woods said he had spent 14 days sifting through dust and rubble by hand, looking for evidence.  His legal case was thought to be the first civil suit of its kind from a police officer working at the scene of a terrorist attack and opens the door to further possible claims.

Lawyers said Mr Woods had been accompanied by 14 other officers from the Met and 15 Sussex officers who could have suffered the same exposure.

Sussex Police made contact with and sent letters to 154 people, but said they have received no further legal claims.

Solicitor Andrew James, representing Mr Woods’ family, told The Argus:

“When the bomb blew up, it collapsed the building into the basement. Jonathan Woods and 15 Met and 15 Sussex Police officers picked through the dust in the basement, which it turns out was contaminated with blue asbestos, but weren’t protected.

In 1984 they would definitely have known the risks of asbestos. There had been a big publicity campaign a couple of years before.

It can be 60 years before the effects start to show themselves, but once you are exposed you are always at risk.”