Two police forces have paid damages after a forensic officer died from asbestos-related cancer he contracted in the wake of the IRA bomb attack on the Conservative Party conference in Brighton in 1984.
The news has caused serious concern among some victims, who fear it could indicate a wave of fresh deaths attributable to IRA bombings during the Troubles.
Sussex Police, which has jurisdiction over the Brighton area where the Tory conference was held, told the News Letter that both it and the Metropolitan Police paid damages.
Metropolitan Police forensic officer Jonathan Woods was one of the first on the scene at the Grand Hotel bomb site in 1984. Five people died and 34 were injured but Mr Woods was later referred to as ‘the sixth victim’ after his death in 2015.
He developed mesothelioma, an incurable lung cancer caused by asbestos in the lungs. In 2014 he issued a writ against both Sussex Police and the Met, claiming he was not given adequate protection from asbestos in 1984.
Sussex Police accepted liability but he died in a French hospital in 2015 before his case could be concluded. His widow Sharon took up the claim and it was revealed this week that the case has now been settled.
Sussex police told the News Letter: “The claim involving the one deceased Metropolitan Police officer was settled in February this year (2017). 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 force said it had sent out related warning letters to 154 people after Mr Woods’ death but has had no further legal claims.
Jonathan Ganesh, president of the London-based Docklands Victims Association, said: “I’m absolutely horrified as I fear this case is the tip of the iceberg. It appears that more rescue workers and survivors could be affected by deadly asbestos.
“This terrible illness tends to emerge decades after the initial bomb explosion. I’m personally devastated as the IRA attacks continue to leave unparalleled death and misery.”
Susanne Dodd, whose father Metropolitan Police inspector Stephen was killed in the 1983 IRA Harrods bomb, said she had been in contact with many victims who are “understandably very worried” by the news. She also asked why the government has not requested that all bomb attack victims attend screening for mesothelioma.
“My brave dad was killed by the IRA in the Harrods attack and sadly more will later die due to the IRA,” she added.