Butlin's Filey handyman battling terminal cancer Issues asbestos warning after being exposed to hazardous material at work

A retired handyman battling terminal cancer is warning of the dangers of asbestos after exposure to the deadly material while working at a former Butlin's holiday camp.

By Sue Wilkinson
Thursday, 27th August 2020, 10:45 am
Updated Thursday, 27th August 2020, 10:46 am
Robert Scarpelli
Robert Scarpelli

Father-of-three Robert Scarpelli is battling mesothelioma, an incurable form of cancer which often develops decades after first exposure to asbestos.

Following his diagnosis, the 60-year-old of Maltby, Rotherham, instructed specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether he was exposed to the hazardous substance while working at Butlin's in Filey in the early 1980s.

Irwin Mitchell launched a High Court legal case against Hard Rock Café (Edinburgh) Ltd, which is the successor company to Butlins Limited which employed Robert, who is known as Rob.

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The company has accepted that it was in breach of its duty of care to protect Rob. Hard Rock (Edinburgh) Café Ltd agreed to judgment being entered against it in respect of Rob’s exposure to asbestos which took place during his employment at Butlin's in Filey before it closed its doors in 1983.

Hard Rock Café (Edinburgh) Limited does not run the three Butlin's camps still operating today.

Angela Davies, the legal expert at Irwin Mitchell representing Rob said: “Rob’s case vividly highlights the terrible legacy that asbestos has created. While some people may commonly associate asbestos with traditional, heavy industry, its use was widespread in public buildings such as schools, hospitals, banks and offices.

“This case is unusual in that it involved a very popular holiday venue which, in its day, accommodated several thousand people at a time.

“The use of asbestos has thankfully been banned in the UK since 1999. However, sadly, we continue to see too many clients and their families whose lives have been turned upside down as a result of this terminal asbestos cancer.

“What makes Rob’s case more shocking is the relatively young age at which he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, aged just 58, and the fact that the risks associated with asbestos were well known by employers at the time of his exposure.

“We were enormously helped by some of Rob’s former colleagues who responded to a witness appeal via the press and who kindly assisted us with our investigations.

“While nothing can make up for what has happened to Rob, we are pleased to have secured him the justice he deserves.

We join Rob in warning of the dangers of asbestos which is still very much part of our infrastructure.”

Rob was originally a kitchen porter when he started work at Butlin's in 1980 before he moved into maintenance work; and he then became a handyman on the site. Rob left the Filey camp in 1982. It closed the following year.

Part of Rob’s role included repairing locks and windows as well as leaking roofs in chalets. He said that he would often have to drill into walls which would create dust. He also had to patch up holes in the chalet walls with what he believes to be asbestos insulation board.

Following his diagnosis in 2018 Rob had a permanent tube fitted to drain fluid from his chest cavity. He also underwent radical surgery to remove the lining of his right lung as well as a number of cycles of chemotherapy.

He said: “Although I was ill, nothing prepared me for when I was told I had mesothelioma. Before my diagnosis I’d not even heard of it but now I’m only too aware of how devastating it is.

“The last two years have been incredibly difficult. My cancer has had a huge impact on my life. I can’t do much at all. I’m in a lot of pain despite taking morphine and spend all of my time at home, mostly in bed.

“My life has just completely changed because of my illness. While I try and make the most of what time I have left, I’m worried about the future and what it will mean for my family. It’s also difficult not to be angry at what has happened, knowing my employer should have taken steps to protect me.

“I just hope that by speaking out people realise how dangerous asbestos is and what the consequences can be sadly.”