BELOVED philanthropist Cecil Duckworth died from cancer contracted by breathing in asbestos, his inquest has revealed.

The popular Worcester-based philanthropist, who founded Worcester Bosch and built Worcester Warriors into one of the country’s most prominent rugby union clubs, was mourned beyond the city boundaries when he died last month.

An inquest on December 11 ruled his death had been caused by “malignant pulmonary mesothelioma”, a cancer that started in Mr Duckworth's lungs that is "rarely possible to cure" according to the NHS.

More than 2,600 people are diagnosed with the condition each year in the UK.

Mr Duckworth’s widow, Beatrice Duckworth, told Worcester News: “It must have been something which he picked up when he was first making the boilers and it lay dormant all these years.

“It was unexpected, it only materialised in the past two or three years. He had no idea, it was just very unfortunate. There is no silver bullet with these things.

"He had one day's illness in his life, he had remarkable health and only had that one day off work so this came as a total shock. He wasn't used to being unwell."

Mesothelioma is a malignant tumour caused by inhaled asbestos fibres and forms in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart.

Symptoms can include shortness of breath and chest pain with an approximate 12-month life expectancy for patients after diagnosis. Treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, may improve that prognosis.

People most at risk of developing mesothelioma would generally have handled asbestos for a prolonged period of time or got exposed to large amounts of asbestos as part of their career.

Most cases are diagnosed in people aged 60 to 80 with men affected more commonly than women.

Mrs Duckworth went on to express her gratitude for the army of mourners who turned out to pay tribute, particularly on the day of Mr Duckworth's funeral.

His final tour of the city began at Acorn’s Children Hospice, St Peter’s, where he had supported the care of seriously ill children and their families for many years.

The procession then stopped outside Worcester Cathedral before heading to Worcestershire County Cricket Club, where Mr Duckworth was named president in March 2019, and people lined New Road in numbers to say their goodbyes.

The tour continued at Worcester Bosch where employees paid their respects before finishing with the place that stole his heart, Sixways Stadium, home of his beloved Warriors.

"As a family we were quite overwhelmed by all the tributes we received from everyone, and everyone who stood and paid their respects as the cortege went past," said Mrs Duckworth.

"We thought that was a wonderful thing to do and it was a great source of comfort to us.

"It was something we had never thought about or envisaged but it was an amazing thing for people to do and we were really touched."

Mrs Duckworth spent what she described as a "very strange" Christmas with her immediate family.

"We were married for 59 years, next September would have been our 60th anniversary, but my family were here with us having been in a bubble for a long time. That was very comforting."