Police officers unknowingly exposed to asbestos at Grand Hotel bombing

Police officers unknowingly exposed to asbestos at Grand Hotel bombing

It has emerged that police officers who worked at the scene of the Grand hotel bombing, Brighton, back in 1984, weren’t made aware at the time that they were being exposed to toxic levels of asbestos.

The dangerously high levels of asbestos were recorded on police logs at the time, although some police officers worked at the scene of the blast without wearing any suitable clothing or protection.

Documents were discovered in files that were being prepared in June this year in advance of a warning to be issued to former officers by Sussex Police, who said that they may have been exposed to the asbestos during the clean-up operation following the IRA bomb attack on the Conservative Party conference in 1984.

The warning issued in the summer of this year came after a High Court hearing last year.  Both Sussex police and the Metropolitan forces admitted liability for one officer, Johnathan Woods, who had been diagnosed with asbestos cancer, mesothelioma, as a direct result of having worked at the bomb scene.

Police officers unknowingly exposed to asbestos at Grand Hotel bombing - Grand Hotel following bomb attack

Lawyer and former Superintendent speak out

The lawyer acting oh behalf of Mr Woods’ widow, Sharon, said, “They should have been provided with a far higher level of protection and should have been made aware of the danger in continuing work in the manner that they did for a further 14 days.”

“This was not an emergency situation where lives were at risk and they had to go into a dangerous scene. The area had already been cleared and proper precautions could have saved Jon Woods’s life.”

He went on to say, “Full details of the high levels of exposure and copies of the relevant records should have been given to everyone who was exposed at the scene.”

Former superintendent, Bernie Wells, who was overseeing the work of the officers at the time said, “There was never any suggestion of asbestos being in that hotel.”

“I never had any hesitation in going in there whereas I would have done if I thought there was asbestos.”

“Being in charge on the ground, as it were, I was in and out of that hotel every day and I’m absolutely confident that had there been any suggestion that there was asbestos in there I would have known.”

Documents reveal officers were not wearing protective equipment

The documents that were discovered and were the reason behind the warning issued by Sussex police say, “The assessment that the level of contamination of the scene debris was at a level to warrant informing affected persons was based primarily on scene logs which note that asbestos contamination of the scene debris was ‘very high’.”

“There is also evidence to suggest that persons entered the bomb site without sufficient personal protective equipment.”

According to these documents, some officers were provided with respirator-style marks and others were given air-fed masks, but no warnings were given to the officers of the dangers of dust on their clothing, or the associated risks to families of the police officers that maybe took their contaminated clothing home, and no warnings were given about the high levels of asbestos that were present.

In response to being asked why police officers were not informed about the high levels of asbestos contamination at the time, a spokeswoman from Sussex police said, “Unfortunately the bombing was a long time ago and we don’t know the level of detail people were briefed at the time.”

“It recently came to our attention that the risks had resulted in a death potentially related to the exposure.

“We feel we now have an ethical duty to tell people, having learned of the officer’s tragic death.”


Source of article:-  www.theargus.co.uk/news/14805442.Police_kept_ignorant_of_dangers_at_hotel_bomb_blast_scene/?ref=rss by Johnathan Corke and Emily Walker


Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their building so as not to put employees at risk. Contact our Armco office for asbestos management and refurbishment/ demolition surveys on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting http://www.armco.org.uk/

Alternatively, for all your asbestos training needs call 0161 761 4424 or visit http://www.armcoasbestostraining.co.uk/ for more information or to book a training course.



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Published Oct 19, 2016
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