A MAN who worked at a Southampton branch of Woolworths is fighting for compensation after being diagnosed with an asbestos-related form of cancer.

Richard Wardle, 79, an assistant manager of the company's Above Bar outlet in the early 1960s, was left devastated after doctors told him was suffering from mesothelioma.

During his time at the store, the marble floor was ground down as part of a major refurbishment scheme.

Daily Echo: The former Woolworths store in Above Bar, Southampton, is now TK MaxxThe former Woolworths store in Above Bar, Southampton, is now TK Maxx (Image: Newsquest.)

Experts at specialist legal firm Novum Law, which is backing Richard's compensation claim, believe pipework lagged with insulating asbestos was disturbed during the work.

They suspect he and his colleagues may have inhaled deadly dust after it began circulating in the air.

READ MORE: Data reveals impact of asbestos-related cancer in Southampton

Novum Law is trying to locate other ex-employees and contractors who can recall working in the shop, which closed in 2007 and is now TK Maxx.

They hope to unearth vital information about the work that was carried out, the working conditions, and the materials staff may have come into contact with.

Daily Echo: The Above Bar branch of Woolworths in the 1950sThe Above Bar branch of Woolworths in the 1950s (Image: Martini archive)

Senior litigation executive Alan Jolliffe said: "Richard was exposed to asbestos when working hard to earn a living.

"His employers failed to adequately protect him and he rightly wants justice for the effect this diagnosis will have on his life.

"We urge anybody who worked with him or contractors who worked at this premises to get in touch with us with any information you have, no matter how small.

"The more evidence we have, the better chance we have of achieving a successful outcome for Richard."

READ MORE: Southampton in top ten UK areas for asbestos cancer deaths

The UK is said to have one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, with more than 2,700 cases reported every year.

Almost all are caused by asbestos, which triggers gene mutations in the mesothelium - a membrane lining the chest wall.

Novum Law secured compensation for the family of a former Woolworths employee who died from mesothelioma in 2021 after being exposed to asbestos.

Her solicitor, Rhiannon Davies, said: "Woolworths ceased trading some time ago. However, it is still possible to make compensation claims because we can claim against their insurers."

The cancer often emerges decades after the victim was exposed.

Anyone with information about asbestos at the Above Bar branch of Woolworths can call Novum Law on the FREEPHONE number 0800 884 0777. 

TK Maxx declined to comment.

A city council spokesman said it was the duty of a building's current occupier to check for the presence of any asbestos.