TRIBUTES have been paid to a much-loved uncle who died from an asbestos related disease more than 50 years after he was exposed to the deadly material.

Ralph Estell died at his home in Windermere Terrace in Stanley on October 6, a year after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer.

An inquest into the 68-year-old’s death at Crook Civic Centre yesterday, heard Mr Estell was exposed to asbestos while working at a timber merchants from 1966 to 1970.

Coroner’s officer Dawn Carter said: “He did a lot of odd jobs and general cleaning tasks, including sweeping the floors. Staff used to cut asbestos doors and there was an awful lot of dust. He never had any protective equipment.”

Ms Carter described how Mr Estell, who lived in Stanley all his life, went on to produce ball bearings for a car manufacturer, before leaving to care for his father who had Parkinson’s disease.

“He is not understood to have come into contact with asbestos anywhere else but the timber merchants,” she added.

Coroner Crispin Oliver concluded Mr Estell died of an industrial disease.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Estell’s niece Carolynn Favell described her uncle as a kind man who “liked to get on with things,” adding: “He was very quiet and he never married but he was close to my mam before she died and also to me.

“It was nice the other day because some of his neighbours came out and said how much he had helped them over the years. Although he was a quiet man, he was always there for people.”

Mrs Favell, who looked after Mr Estell, said he had led an active life until last year when he began to experience pains in his back.

“He loved to walk and knew everything that was going on in Stanley because he was always out and about,” she said. “He never had a day in hospital until this happened.”