Wanted: Relatives to share in traffic island tramp's fortune

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The Independent Online

The hunt is on for relatives of a bearded hermit who lived on a traffic island for three decades, after it emerged that he left thousands of pounds in untouched pension savings.

Josef Stawinoga, popularly known as "Fred the tramp", built up a cult following in Wolverhampton, where he lived, and beyond after staying on a ring-road in the city for 35 years.

More than 10,000 members have signed up to pages devoted to Mr Stawinoga on the social networking website Facebook.

But now the the treasury solicitor – who deals with property without an apparent owner or claimant – is seeking relatives of the hermit, who died at the age of 87 without leaving a will. Claimants will need to prove their connection to him.

Mr Stawinoga was tolerated by authorities because he suffered from a phobia of confined spaces. At one point council officials moved in to change his tent and remove rubbish he had amassed around it, fearing it posed a health hazard. It also provided the hermit with meals on wheels.

If no relatives are traced the Government will keep the money and put it towards the public purse. A spokesman from Wolverhampton City Council said: "The treasury solicitor's office has the responsibility of tracing next of kin. If it determines there are none, Mr Stawinoga's estate will return to the state."

Mr Stawinoga is believed to have moved to Wolverhampton in the 1950s and worked at a steelworks in the city before moving on to the traffic island.