EXCLUSIVE - Lonely death of ‘abandoned’ council tenant to be probed

Town hall chiefs have launched an urgent investigation to find out why it took almost two months before an elderly tenant was found dead in his home despite housing officials being alerted by a neighbour in November he had gone missing.

Police discovered the badly decomposed body of Nigerian-born Kingsley Idahosa, pictured right, aged 74, in the bath of his Camberwell, south London, ground floor flat today. They got into the property through a back window which was open.

Idahosa's Oswyth Road terraced home is owned by Southwark council.

“If it is proved to be true that people contacted the council to say he’d gone missing I’d be flabbergasted he could have been left for so long and nothing done about it.” - Cllr Ian Wingfield a councillor for the ward in which Idahosa lived, told the-latest.

Wingfield, who is also Southwark’s deputy leader, added: “I will have to make my own investigations before giving you a fuller response.”

A Southwark council spokeswoman said police were investigating and the council would be doing the same.

Alarm bells first rang when Idahosa’s upstairs neighbour contacted council housing officials in the third week of November to say she was concerned because she had not seen or heard from him for a fortnight and there was a bad smell coming from his flat. She had also noticed the kitchen light was permanently on.

But it was not until December 3 that housing manager Hazel Flores came by with a colleague to investigate.  Flores told the neighbour she could smell the incense Idahosa was known to burn but not any bad odour.

Flores left a letter in a gap in Idahosa’s door saying he or a next of kin should urgently contact her. On December 22 Flores telephoned the neighbour to ask if Idahosa had turned up. The neighbour said he had not. Flores said she would “keep in touch” and the neighbour should contact her if she heard from Idahosa.

By this time, mail for Idahosa had filled up his post box.

The neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: “Kingsley was the sort of man who would have made arrangements for his post to be collected if he’d gone away. So that was a tell-tale sign something was wrong.”

She added: “It was also strange that a man took away his car in November, though Kingsley put a cone and two dustbins in the road where it had previously been parked, suggesting that he expected it to come back.”

The-latest has uncovered a catalogue of errors that led to missed opportunities to save Idahosa by, for instance, moving him to sheltered accommodation where he would be looked after.

What is significant is that, because Idahosa had been reported to council officials as someone who was causing a nuisance and they had been in regular contact with him about that for two years, this was not a case of an elderly tenant living alone who had fallen off their radar. Indeed, Flores told the neighbour she had been trying to contact him a week before the alert about his disappearance.

Esther Oviasu, a retired nurse who had stayed in touch with Idahosa after his friend her husband Joseph died four years ago, was in tears when she came looking for him yesterday.

She said: “He used to keep in touch so when I didn’t hear from him for weeks, including at Christmas time and at New Year, I became really concerned."

To think, people were contacting the council and they didn’t get the police to act. I had to do that this morning and they responded quickly. I think the council has been negligent.” - friend Esther Oviasu

Lawson Ekpo, a fellow Nigerian friend of Idahosa’s, who said he had known him for 10 years because they both belonged to the same south Kensington Mormon church, told the-latest: “If someone said to the council he had gone missing for days, months, weeks they should have called the police. I’m very upset that they failed him.”

The-latest has been told the council, who knew Idahosa lived alone and was troubled, neither had a record of his next of kin nor family doctor. Another available doctor had to be brought in by the police to pronounce him dead this afternoon.

Friends said Idahosa was unmarried and the only child they knew about was a daughter aged three or four by a younger woman who lived in London. He moved to England from Benin City in Nigeria’s Edo state more than 40 years ago. Idahosa told his neighbour he had lived at his Oswyth Road home for 20 years.

Southwark council has been mired in housing department scandals, including its handling of a fire at Lakanal House which killed six people and the illegal eviction of a migrant.

A coroner's investigation into the circumstances of Idahosa's death is being held which could lead to a public inquest where Southwark council's actions can be questioned.

© Copyright The-Latest Ltd January 2016.