An Epsom Council worker who died from an asbestos-related cancer was most likely exposed to the substance although it is not known how, a coroner has ruled.

Valerie Smith, 61, of Holman Court, in Church Street, Ewell, died last April of mesothelioma after working for Epsom Council for 23 years.

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer which affects the lungs and abdomen, caused, in most cases, by exposure to asbestos.

Miss Smith believed she was exposed to asbestos while working for the council, when she was based in its parks and recreation department at the Rainbow Leisure Centre from 1992 to 1995.

And she believed this exposure caused her disease - something which Epsom Council has always denied.

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Concluding an inquest into her death held at Woking Coroners’ Court last week, coroner Martin Fleming recorded a narrative verdict of death by mesothelioma.

He said: "It is more likely than not that she was exposed to asbestos, although the source of her exposure remains unknown."

An Epsom Council spokesman said afterwards Miss Smith had been a "valued member of staff" at the town hall and that the "coroner concluded there was no finding that Valerie was exposed to asbestos in her work with the council".

But Miss Smith’s sister Diane Brighton remained convinced that she was.

She said in a statement: "Valerie was certain she was exposed whilst employed at Epsom and Ewell Borough Council.

"Unfortunately due to timeframes of 25 to 30 years ago, records and exact details have been difficult/impossible to obtain.

"Support from people who knew Valerie was also affected by what we know as ‘whistleblowing’ in fear of losing jobs.

"We feel we have done all that is asked, and retained pride and dignity for Valerie."

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