Inquiry demand: death of 'abandoned' council tenant an ‘utter disgrace'

Veteran housing campaigner Piers Corbyn has launched a devastating attack on town hall chiefs for failing to come to the rescue of one of their elderly tenants who lay dead in his home for almost two months despite alarm bells being sounded by a neighbour and friends. 

Council officials twice visited the UK home of Nigerian-born Kingsley Idahosa, aged 74, after his upstairs neighbour contacted them to say he had been missing for weeks and a foul smell was coming from his ground floor flat. But they did not ask police to break down his door.

Police found Idahosa's badly decomposed body in the bath of his Oswyth Road, Camberwell, home on January 7 after a concerned friend rang them. The-latest broke the story the same day and it was followed up in the media, including Southwark News.

Piers Corbyn, elder brother of Labour leader, Jeremy, was heavily critical of town hall chiefs. He told the-latest: “This is an utter disgrace. Southwark don’t seem to care about vulnerable single elderly people, like poor Mr Idahosa, living on their own.”

 Corbyn, who has been for decades a thorn in the side of  the council over what he claims is its poor housing record, added: “I would like to hear an explanation from them as to how this was allowed to happen. I demand an independent public inquiry to look into this latest Southwark housing department scandal.”

After the neighbour contacted them in November, council officers, led by manager Hazel Flores, visited the building where Idahosa had a flat and spoke to the neighbour on December 3 and 4. They did not attempt to gain entry to Idahosa’s flat, and say in part this was because his car was missing. But the neighbour told them a friend, not Idahosa, had taken it away, and Idahosa's post was overflowing in his letter box attached to the communal front door.

On December 22, several weeks after they were first contacted, the council rang the neighbour to enquire whether Idahosa had been seen and were told that he was still missing.

Finally, on January 7, a worried friend of Idahosa's called the police, who entered the flat, using an open back window, and made the grim discovery.

The neighbour, who spoke to but wished to remain anonymous, said she was disgusted that Idahosa was left for weeks, despite visits to the building from council housing officers and her raising her suspicions with them.

She said: “I’m quite shocked by it and I’ve had anxiety – just the thought of him, all that time while I have been in and out of the house over Christmas and New Year, laying dead in his bath.”

The neighbour had noticed a bad smell coming from Idahosa’s Oswyth Road home and was also concerned that his post was not being collected and his kitchen light was constantly on.

She said: “In two years of living here I don’t recall him being away. There was an awful odour coming upstairs from his flat and his post was piling up. This didn’t seem right."

Councillor Richard Livingstone, Southwark council's cabinet member for housing, said: “I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Mr Idahosa, who sadly passed away in his home. After reviewing the actions of officers at the time I’m reassured that the right steps were taken to locate Mr Idahosa as soon as concerns were raised about his whereabouts. Officers contacted the police requesting an immediate welfare check and visited his home within 24 hours, followed by another visit, and saw no signs of an emergency.”

He went on: “As a responsible landlord, we take the welfare of our residents very seriously and do our best to balance engagement with local people, particularly the most vulnerable, without intruding on their private lives. Realistically, we cannot break down the door of people’s home whenever we cannot find them. Cases like this highlight how important it is to be a good neighbour by keeping an eye out for each other, especially those living alone.”

Editor of the-latest Marc Wadsworth said: “Cllr Livingstone’s press office-crafted response is breath-taking in its complacency. He has clearly decided to close ranks with incompetent council officers and cover up for them.”

He added: “ supports the call by Piers Corbyn for an independent public inquiry to at least in death get justice for this elderly, vulnerable Black man.”

© Copyright The-Latest Ltd January 2016.