The husband of a former university employee is appealing for help after his wife was exposed to the asbestos that claimed her life. 

Annie Leech, previously known as Andrea Leonard, was diagnosed late last year with mesothelioma. 

A terminal cancer affecting the lining of the lungs, it is associated with exposure to asbestos often decades previously. 

Following her diagnosis, Mrs Leech instructed specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers to investigate her illness. 

She believed it could have been linked to her time working at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

However, her untimely death in March meant she was unable to see the conclusion of the case. 

Eastern Daily Press: Annie Leech (middle) with her family

Now, her husband Phillip is continuing his wife’s search for answers in her memory.  

Samantha Shaw, the lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said: “Annie’s death has understandably come as a huge loss to Philip and her children, who are still coming to terms with her passing. 

“For the brief time that I knew her, Annie was clearly an amazing woman who has left a lasting impact not only on her family and friends but colleagues who remembered her as a pioneer and intellect in her field of mental health care.

“Annie had many questions on how she came to be exposed to asbestos, but sadly died before she could see her case concluded.  

“We’re now determined to support Annie’s family in their search for answers in her memory.” 

Eastern Daily Press: Annie Leech

Born Andrea Humphrey in 1948, Mrs Leech had three daughters; Emily, Hannah and Lucy. She married her husband in 1996. 

Prior to her death, she recalled that she attended the career centre at UEA in 1973 and began a voluntary work position there which developed into an employed position. 

At the time, the UEA was still under construction.  

She said she remembered building work taking place and that she was unable to avoid walking through areas under construction. Workmen would also regularly come and go in the areas in which she worked. 

She left the UEA in 1975, when she moved away from the area, and went on to have a successful career influencing work managing policies for mental health care as a senior civil servant at the Department of Health. 

Eastern Daily Press: Annie Leech

In her spare time, she was a keen gardener, loved to travel and adored her husband and her three daughters. 

She had been in good health until she began experiencing breathlessness in late September last year. 

She consulted her GP and, following tests, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October. She died in March. 

Mr Leech said: “Losing Annie to this horrible disease has been devastating for all of us. Even now, it hasn’t fully sunk in that we won’t see her again. 

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“When she received the mesothelioma diagnosis, we couldn’t believe it as she had always been office-based in her career.  

“It’s only when she thought back to the construction work, she was surrounded by in the 70s that we saw a possible link. 

“The speed of Annie’s passing was shocking.  

“Annie and I had so many more plans for the future that have now been left in ruins. We thought we had years left together, but these have now been cruelly taken away. 

“The travel plans we had can never happen now.” 

Eastern Daily Press: Annie Leech

Lawyers are keen to trace anyone who worked with Mrs Leech during her time at the UEA between 1973 and 1975.  

Ms Shaw added: “Nothing can bring Annie back, but if any of her former colleagues could come forward with their memories of their working conditions, it would mean a lot to the family. 

“It could help provide the family with the answers they’re looking for following the death of a wonderful woman." 

A UEA spokesperson said: “We are sad to hear of Annie’s passing and we are assisting with the ongoing investigation.

“We take the safety of our staff, students and visitors seriously.”

  • Anyone with information that could help Philip is asked to contact Samantha Shaw at Irwin Mitchell on 01223 791 815 or email