At least nine homeless people died in Norfolk and Waveney last year - but nobody counts their deaths
PUBLISHED: 07:58 10 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:28 10 October 2018
A father who froze to death, a 23-year-old found dead near Carrow Road - in the last year homeless people have died in places from cemeteries to hostels - but no one is counting them.
When Anthony Barnard was found frozen to death last Christmas outside the home he had been evicted from, attention quickly focused on the response by the ambulance service and police.
His brother Jeremy has questions over why police did not respond to a call from a neighbour who saw Anthony slumped outside a property in Priors Close, Lowestoft.
Suffolk Constabulary’s response has been under investigation by the police watchdog ever since.
But what has and will not be looked at is how Anthony, a 57-year-old father, came to freeze to death outside the £300,000 house he had been evicted from three months earlier.
No one will determine what can be learned from his death to stop similar ones from happening again.
An investigation by this newspaper can reveal Mr Barnard is one of at least nine people we can track who died in the last year in Norfolk and Waveney whilst homeless. They were either sleeping rough, of no fixed abode, or in a hostel.
But scandalously, nobody officially counts or investigates these deaths. This is despite the fact rough sleeping in Norwich, Yarmouth and King’s Lynn and across the country has been rising.
A national campaign by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism called Dying Homeless, which we are backing, is trying to change the lack of investigation into homeless deaths. They have counted 449 homeless people who have died in the country since October 2017.
In response to the investigation the Office for National Statistics said it will now start counting homeless deaths.
Charities have reacted with horror to the figures and backed calls for official investigations.
Howard Sinclair, St Mungo’s chief executive, said the number of homeless deaths were a “national scandal”. “These deaths are premature and entirely preventable,” he said.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, added: “Rising levels of homelessness are a national disgrace, but it is utterly unforgivable that so many homeless people are dying unnoticed and unaccounted for.”
To uncover the figures we contacted local charities, Norwich City Council, the NHS, the coroner’s office, the adult safeguarding board and looked through our archives.
We have found nine deaths in the last 12 months, although the real figure is likely to be much higher as the only organisation keeping any sort of count is Norfolk’s coroner’s office.
They have a record of deaths where an inquest has been held and the person is of “no fixed abode”.
But most deaths do not go to inquest. They are only held after a post mortem if the cause of death is unknown, or if the person died a violent or unnatural death.
Even for those who go to a full inquest, the prime responsibility is to determine cause of death, not to analyse how such deaths can be avoided.
This is what we know about the nine:
•1) Vadmis Saltis
The 23-year-old, of no fixed abode, was found hanging from a tree in Hardwick Road Cemetery, King’s Lynn, on October 17 last year by a walker.
He had MDMA (ecstasy) in his system. An inquest was held for him in May this year.
It was told that Mr Saltis had been living in a house of multiple occupation until a few days before his death.
Relatives and friends were both that he had from depression, it was reported.
•2) Anthony Barnard
The death of the 57-year-old raised questions in the House of Commons, made national newspaper headlines, and sparked investigations into the ambulance service and police.
He was evicted from his Lowestoft home in September 2017 after being made bankrupt and went to stay at his mum’s house nearby.
Concerns about Mr Barnard were first raised by a neighbour with social services on December 27, who referred the call to the police. Officers then contacted the ambulance service.
The ambulance service said that because there were no injuries or medical complaints they did not respond.
His brother Jeremy said the police should have then attended once the ambulance service told them they would not.
Anthony was found outside the house the next morning after temperatures had dropped to minus three overnight.
•3) Alan Higginson
The 81-year old died at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital (NNUH) on January 3 this year.
He was regularly seen sleeping rough near John Lewis on All Saints Green in the city centre.
Mr Higginson died of natural causes, according to the coroner’s office.
Police put out an appeal after his death to trace any family members but no next-of-kin were identified.
•4) Kayla Terry
Kayla lived at The Lathes in north Norwich but went missing around two weeks before her death on January 31 this year.
The 31 year-old’s body was found in woodland next to Marriott’s Way known as Train Wood behind Barker Street.
Over the winter the woods were being used by homeless people as a camping area. The remains of several tents were found near her body. An inquest will be held this month.
•5) Hussein Khan
Homeless Hussein, 33, was sleeping on a friend’s floor when he died from a drug overdose in March this year.
His friend woke up at 11am on March 30 at his flat on Philadelphia Lane, off Angel Road in north Norwich, and saw Hussein lying on the living room floor on his side.
The delivery driver, who was originally from Afghanistan, was not moving and there was blood coming from his nose.
The father had come home at around 10.30pm the night before and told his friend he had “taken everything”, the inquest into his death heard on Monday.
“He was quite drunk and stated he had enough of everything,” the friend said in a statement at the inquest.
He had spoken about suicide in the past and had taken cannabis, heroin and cocaine previously, the friend said.
The post-mortem gave his cause of death as opiate toxicity. He had high levels of morphine in his blood.
Assistant coroner Johanna Thompson said he died from “taking an excessive quantity of drugs”.
•6) Name unknown
On March 19 a woman’s body was found in Hinde House, Bethel Street, Norwich, a hostel for women who are homeless or have mental health or drug issues. Police were called at 1.50pm. They said there were no suspicious circumstances to the death.
The hostel belongs to housing association Orwell and its chief executive Stephen Javes said at the time the death had been investigated.
•7) Name unknown
This is the case we know the least about. A 45-year old women, of no fixed abode, died of “natural causes” according to the coroner’s office in July this year at the NNUH. The case has not been looked at further which is why there is so little public information about the death.
A homeless charity said he had been found in a tent on Hardy Road.
•8) Name unknown
The death of this 31-year-old man of no fixed abode in Norwich in August is still being investigated by the coroner and a cause of death is not yet known.
•9) Name unknown
We know a little more about the death of this 54-year-old man, also of no fixed abode, because of a newspaper article from the time of his death.
He was found at 2.20am on Thursday August 23 in an alleyway off King Street, Norwich, leading to Murrells Court.
A forensics tent was put up where his body was found and police sealed off the area. They later said there were no suspicious circumstances.
•How we counted the deaths
We started by going to Norwich City Council. A spokesman for them said it did not count homeless deaths and suggested contacting NHS City Reach. That service, for people who are homeless or in insecure housing, keeps a note of people they have helped who have died.
City Reach is run by Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust (NCH&C). But they were not able to help and told us to contact Norfolk Coroner’s Office.
The coroner’s office was very helpful and gave us a list of people of no fixed abode who had died in the last year, according to their records. That only includes deaths referred to them, so the seven they had in the last 12 months are not all homeless deaths in Norfolk.
Four of the cases were not named as no inquest had been held, but we found one name of one by cross-referencing the date of death with a police appeal to find their next of kin.
We also asked homeless charity St Martins Housing Trust of any homeless deaths it knew about. They said no rough sleepers they helped had died in the last year.
We also contacted the Salvation Army in Norwich. They said they did not have figures of homeless people who had died.
Local Safeguarding Adult Boards (SAB) are meant to investigate when someone dies or is seriously harmed as a result of abuse or neglect and authorities could have done more to help that person.
But homeless deaths are hardly ever reviewed in England by SABs, including in Norfolk.
Walter Lloyd-Smith, manager of Norfolk SAB, said no particular agency in Norfolk collected data on homeless deaths. He said the Board’s responsibilities were set out in the Care Act - and that does not put any responsibility on SABs to review homeless deaths.
However in Leeds the SAB is currently reviewing five homeless deaths.
•The national picture
At least 449 people have died homeless in the last year all across the UK, more than a person a day, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found.
They include a former soldier, an astrophysicist, a travelling musician and a chatty Big Issue seller.
Some were found in shop doorways in the height of summer, others in tents hidden in winter woodland.
Some were sent, terminally ill, to dingy hostels and yet others saw out their last days in hospital beds.
Some lay dead for hours, weeks or months before anyone found them. Three men’s bodies were so badly decomposed by the time they were discovered that forensic testing was needed to identify them.
They died from violence, drug overdoses, terminal illnesses and suicide. One man’s body showed signs of prolonged starvation.
•If you know more about any of the people above and would like to add some information to our article please contact Tom Bristow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01603 772834
•A previous version of this article stated at least 10 homeless people had died in the last 12 months. However it has now been brought to our attention that a Norwich man who died from morphine toxicity in a tent near Carrow Road was not homeless.
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