RELATIVES of victims of a deadly asbestos-related cancer released doves into the Reading sky as part of a special gathering to remember their loved ones.

Family members of a number of local men and women who have died from the disease were joined by other members of the Berkshire Asbestos Support Group and specialist lawyers from Reading-based law firm Boyes Turner for the event, timed to coincide with Action Mesothelioma Day, which commemorates victims across the UK.

Margaret Dwyer, Sue Flurry and Isobel Beeton - all from Reading - released the doves in memory of their husbands and others who have died from the asbestos-related cancer, which is often diagnosed decades after the victims were first exposed to the asbestos, known as the deadly dust, during their working lives.

The event also heard from Loraine Steadman, also from Reading, who read a poem she had written in tribute to her father Brian, who died almost 10 years ago from mesothelioma.

A raffle was held to raise money for Mesothelioma UK, the charity which funds research into clinical trials into the incurable cancer which has killed thousands of people worldwide to date.

Laura Magson, a specialist asbestos disease lawyer from Boyes Turner, who set up the support group almost 10 years ago and who has worked with a number of asbestos victims and their families in their fight for justice, said the event was an important moment for everyone there.

"It's really wonderful to see friendships and support flourish over the years and the members really take comfort from each other, all having been through a similar experience," she said.

"The long-standing members of the group are so welcome and supportive to the new people that find themselves part of the same 'gang'.

"Margaret only lost her husband, David, last summer to this terrible illness, but although nothing can bring him back, she's drawn some comfort from the support network this group can offer.

"Mesothelioma is a cruel disease which stays hidden in the body for decades before bringing victims’ lives to a premature end, often in their early retirement.

"It robs the victims and their families of precious time together through no fault of their own – solely due to their employers' historic failures to keep them safe at work."