Inquest rules movie prop man from St Albans died from asbestos exposure

13:32 13 September 2013

Coroner's Court.

Coroner's Court.


A FILM prop master who worked on The Sweeney and Empire of the Sun died due to asbestos exposure, a coroner ruled last Thursday.

Gordon Billings, of Hill End Road, St Albans, had a history of shortness of breath and coughing and died on August 13 this year at Harefield Hospital from lung cancer.

A biopsy of the left lung carried out at the Royal Brompton on May 28 diagnosed mesothelioma and he was admitted to Watford General Hospital on August 11 before being transferred to Harefield in Middlesex.

An inquest heard that Mr Billings had a career history which would have risked exposure to fibres, including a post at British Rail which involved clearing dust from trains.

His job at Associated British Cinemas and EMI as a prop man saw him regularly cleaning out derelict buildings in East London.

Once or twice a year the 78 year old would sweep up and throw away corrugated sheet metal, known for its asbestos content, in just his regular clothes.

The Welshman, originally from Mid-Glamorgan, said in a witness statement read out by Assistant Deputy Herts Coroner Alison Grief that he was not aware of being exposed to asbestos but that sets were often made alongside him.

While working on The Sweeney in the early ‘70s there were certain areas he could not go into as they were roped off for contamination, and during his time on location for Steven Spielberg movie Empire of the Sun at Greenwich power station he had to sweep dust and debris from the floor.

The assistant deputy coroner ruled the death as due to industrial disease.


More news stories

4 minutes ago
Robert, who set up the fundraising initiative, with his wife, Nina, and son, Leon.

A caring resident has set up a crowdfunding campaign in the hope of planting and maintaining trees in the area.

River Ver

A 200-strong group which devotes its time and resources to maintaining and protecting the River Ver is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Some homes in the St Albans district could lose up to £1,120 a month in housing benefit

Eighty homes in the district will have their housing benefit reduced by up to £1,120 a month following recent government cuts.

Yesterday, 18:00
SAFC wins the Corporate Social Responsibility Award

St Albans City landed the double in this year’s Chamber of Commerce Community Business Awards.

Save a trip to your local GP with the free prescription service at Avicenna Pharmacy

Avicenna in St Albans offers a FREE repeat prescription collection and delivery service.


Could there be a Beast of Hertfordshire? Residents have reported seeing a panther (file photo) in Harpenden and Hitchin

Reports of recent panther sightings in the St Albans district have been reinforced by the founder of a big cat sanctuary, who said a puma has also been seen roaming near this area.

Digital Edition

Read the The Herts Advertiser e-edition E-edition
Zoo Watch CountryPhile

St Albans Sinkhole News

Friday, October 7, 2016
David Walker lives near the sinkhole in Fontmell Close, St Albans. This photo was taken after most of the cavity was filled with special concrete to plug it.

The Herts Advertiser has been visiting residents in St Albans to see how they have been coping one year after the sinkhole appeared in Fontmell Close on October 1, 2015, in a series of articles to mark the first anniversary of the collapse.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read stories

Local business directory

Hertfordshire's trusted business finder

Show Job Lists

Herts Most Wanted Herts Business Awards