A FAMILY is launching legal action against the Ministry of Defence after their mum’s death in Winsford was linked to a fire at a military base, which scattered toxic asbestos ‘like snow'. 

Susan Maughan lived near Central Ordnance Depot Donnington in Telford, Shropshire, at the time of the 1983 blaze when an old army storage warehouse went up in flames.

Susan died aged 63 in her home in Dee Way in 2015 and the Guardian attended an inquest which ruled she had died from mesothelioma, a rare and terminal cancer caused by asbestos.

At the inquest, the coroner said she had ‘almost certainly’ been exposed to asbestos in the aftermath of the fire.

Daughters, Lorraine, Sonia and Cath, who remember playing in the ‘snow-like’ atmosphere as children, now fear they too could be harbouring the same disease.

Lorraine, 45, who was just 12 at the time, said: “I remember grey snowflakes falling from the sky onto our street and our garden. We all played in it thinking it was Christmas.”

“My mother always liked tidiness, even in her garden. I remember watching her picking up the debris off the floor and putting it into our garden bin.”

According to reports from the time, the fire scattered ash containing asbestos across a 15-square-mile area, but the army initially denied that it was dangerous and it stayed there for five days before being cleaned up.

The deaths of Ellen Paddock, 31, and Paula Ann Nunn, 68, both from mesothelioma, have also previously been linked to the fire.

The family’s lawyers, who are also dealing with another two cases in relation to the same fire, are now investigating whether more should have been done to protect them.

Madelene Holdsworth, an industrial disease specialist at law firm Slater and Gordon, who is acting on the family’s behalf, said: “They have already lost their mum and now fear they too could be victims of this devastating disease. That knowledge is a terrible thing to have to live with and they understandably want answers about whether more could have been done.”

Susan, who went on to have son Allan, 27, was a grandmother of eight and had just become a great grandma when she died of mesothelioma in October last year.

The incurable cancer is caused by inhaling or ingesting dust or fibres from asbestos, but can lie dormant in the body for decades before sufferers realise something is wrong.

Susan was living in Winsford at the time of her death, having retired from jobs, including as a cleaner and a hairdresser, but her family says she had no other memory of coming into contact with asbestos.

They are now appealing for old friends and neighbours near their then home on Millstream Way, Leegomery, to get in touch.

Mother-of-three Cath, 37, who now lives near Southport, added: “What happened to our mum was devastating. She went from being this full of life person to just this empty shell and it was so painful for her at the end.

“I do worry that the same thing could happen to us. I talk quite openly about it with my family, even my children. I do get upset, but I always say I’m going to live for today and if it comes I have prepared myself.”

Anyone who remembers the incident is asked to call Madelene on 0161 3833 308 or email madelene.holdsworth@slatergordon.co.uk