Bournemouth Council denies 'removing sleeping bag and belongings' of homeless man found dead in car park

Friend who found body fears it may have lain undiscovered for two days

Rachel Roberts
Tuesday 23 January 2018 21:24
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The number of people sleeping rough in the UK has soared by more than 130 per cent in just six years [STOCK IMAGE]
The number of people sleeping rough in the UK has soared by more than 130 per cent in just six years [STOCK IMAGE]

A council has denied claims they removed the sleeping bag and belongings of a homeless pensioner found dead in a car park.

The body is yet to be formally identified but is believed to be that of a 66-year-old man known locally as “Kev”.

A friend of his known only as Adam told the Bournemouth Echo Kev had complained that Bournemouth Borough Council had “removed his sleeping bag and possessions” from the under the flyover at the Braidley Road car park.

Adam discovered the body on Monday morning when he thought he was sleeping.

“I said ‘Kev’, put my hand on him to shake him, and that’s when I knew something was wrong and my heart sank,” he said.

Adam, who struck up a friendship with Kev around 18 months ago as he commutes through Bournemouth, said: “A couple of weeks ago he said the council took his sleeping bag.

“They see it as rubbish but they don’t realise these are homeless people. Sleeping bags are the stuff that keeps them warm.”

He said he is troubled by the idea that his friend could have lain dead for as long as two days before he was discovered.

Conservative-run Bournemouth Borough Council was unavailable for comment when approached by The Independent, but a councillor denied that the possessions of the dead man had been thrown away.

Cllr Robert Lawton told Mail Online: “We are very saddened to hear of the death of this gentleman.

“To be clear, we can confirm that the Council did not remove his bedding and belongings and we have been attempting to engage with him for the last ten years.

“The St Mungo’s rough sleeper outreach team has been offering support to him on a regular basis.

“However, for whatever reason, he felt unable to take up any of this support and regretfully turned down ongoing offers of help for his health and accommodation.”

The council has previously been criticised for playing bag pipe music to deter people from sleeping near the town’s bus and railway stations and for buying one-way tickets so that rough sleepers can leave the seaside town.

Local homeless charity founder, Claire Matthews, said her organisation hands out sleeping bags to rough sleepers and volunteers have heard stories of them being thrown away by the local authority as they “clean the streets”.

Ms Matthews, who founded the Hope for Food charity, said that Kev had come into her soup kitchen around four times a week and was well liked by the volunteers.

Adam said he was not aware of Kev having any drug or alcohol problems and he had only seen him smoke roll-ups.

The number of homeless people on the streets has soared by more than 130 per cent in just six years, with austerity and the housing crisis regarded as the key causes by charities.

Dorset Police confirmed they found the body of a man in the car park and that they were working to establish his identity.

The coroner has been notified of the death and an inquest will take place in due course.

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