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Three deaths at Hackney homeless hostel in two months

PUBLISHED: 09:00 10 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:09 16 May 2019

The Shuttleworth Hotel in Well Street, Hackney. Picture: Polly Hancock

The Shuttleworth Hotel in Well Street, Hackney. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Three people have died at homeless hostel the Shuttleworth Hotel in the space of eight weeks this year, the Gazette has learned.

The bodies of the three residents were taken away from the building for the homeless in Well Street on Monday, February 18, on Monday, March 4, and on Monday, April 18.

Their next of kin have been informed and while the causes of their deaths are not yet known, none are thought to be suspicious.

The tragic incidents have sparked fresh visits by local authorities to the hotel, which earns millions of pounds in council-sponsored placements every year.

In 2016 the death of one resident, Joseph Coughlin, sparked the Gazette's long-running investigation into the plight of London's hidden homeless.

Three people have died at the Shuttleworth since the start of 2019. Picture: Polly HancockThree people have died at the Shuttleworth since the start of 2019. Picture: Polly Hancock

Meg Hillier, the MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said the situation of people in temporary accommodation like the Shuttleworth was "heartbreaking".

She said: "I have been campaigning on housing since I was first elected and here we are, full circle again, and it's very depressing.

"My hunch is these were very vulnerable people in unhappy circumstances.

"People's lives are on hold while they're in there and it's not a good place to be.

The 110-bedroom hostel offers temporary accommodation to homeless people from across London: Picture: Polly HancockThe 110-bedroom hostel offers temporary accommodation to homeless people from across London: Picture: Polly Hancock

"The council has a responsibility to put a roof over people's heads but it's running out of options. A place like the Shuttleworth is a stopgap, but an unacceptable stopgap."

The Shuttleworth provides paid-for temporary accommodation to homeless people from across London on behalf of local authorities.

It came under fire in 2016 after an investigation by the Gazette uncovered squalid conditions.

The state of the hostel is believed to have improved since then but the spate of deaths has raised fresh questions from councils who pay to place homeless people there.

An inspection by Hackney Council in August 2018 concluded it was in a satisfactory state.

Officers also visited following the most recent death in April, and confirmed that the room in which the person died was in good condition.

Both the Metropolitan Police and London Ambulance Service attended each of the recent deaths, with an LAS spokeswoman confirming they were called to the first incident on February 18 at 9.36pm.

Two weeks later on March 4, crews were called to the Shuttleworth at 3.33pm after the body of a 31-year-old man was discovered.

The Gazette's 2017 Hidden Homeless campaign was sparked by a previous death at the hostel. Picture: ArchantThe Gazette's 2017 Hidden Homeless campaign was sparked by a previous death at the hostel. Picture: Archant

And three weeks ago on April 15, the ambulance service was again called to the hostel at 2.01pm after another man was found dead in his room.

All three people were pronounced dead at the scene.

Some residents who were there as the bodies were being taken away told the Gazette they had not heard from police or their responsible local authorities since.

Eno Otu, 47, who only arrived at the hotel last month, said he had watched the third person being removed in a body bag.

Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch.Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch.

"I feel safe here, but seeing that was quite shocking," he said. "It all happened suddenly and it's a big thing psychologically, and no-one has said anything to us."

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An elderly resident added: "All police do is come down and take people away and there's no after-talk from management after a death."

The Gazette has been told police were called to a fourth incident at the Shuttleworth over the Easter weekend, but this could not be confirmed with emergency services or the management.

Mayor of Hackney, Cllr Philip Glanville. Picture: Gary Manhine/Hackney CouncilMayor of Hackney, Cllr Philip Glanville. Picture: Gary Manhine/Hackney Council

A staff member at One Café in Well Street, which is directly opposite the hostel, said: "It was crazy. Police were going in and out, and in and out. I really want something to be done about that place."

An inquest into the second death is due to take place at Poplar Coroner's Court on August 22, while the third is being investigated to decide if an inquest will be required. Coroners were not notified of the death in February.

Several councils pay for homeless people under their care to be housed at the Shuttleworth, which has 110 single rooms.

According to accounts, between June and November last year Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham councils paid the hostel's parent company Shuttleworth (UK) Limited a total of £1.38million.

Commenting on the figures, Hackney Green party campaigner Samir Jeraj said: "It's utterly abhorrent that yet more people have died in the Shuttleworth, while Hackney and other councils have been pouring in money to keep it open.

"Residents of Hackney and the families of those who died deserve answers as to why councils have kept sending people there."

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville said: "I am extremely saddened to hear about the deaths at Shuttleworth Hotel.

"I have asked council officers to work with the hostel's management and other local authorities to urgently investigate whether there is anything we can do to further support residents."

He added: "Hackney is facing unprecedented demand for housing, as well as for advice and support. There are more than 13,000 people on our housing waiting list and more than 3,000 households in temporary accommodation."

Two of the people who died were placed in the hostel by Camden Council.

Camden has paid £139,000 in the last five months to house residents there.

A spokesperson said: "The council was notified immediately by the hotel staff after each incident."

Tower Hamlets Council currently has 31 people placed at the hostel and paid a total of £616,279 to the owners over six months last year.

A spokesperson said: "Our thoughts are with the friends and families of those who have died in recent months.

"The council has to make use of accommodation outside of the borough to help get those most in need off the streets. No matter the location, we continue to provide support with issues such as physical and mental health, addiction and employment."

The Shuttleworth's area manager Peter Chan described the deaths as "unfortunate".

He said: "Three residents passed away this year and the relevant authorities and next of kin were informed accordingly. Their cause of death is unknown to us."

Mr Chan also stressed that the Shuttleworth provided facilities and services, such as help with paperwork, Wifi, subsidised laundry and welcome packs, to make residents' stay "as pleasurable as possible".

He added: "We carry out welfare check[s] on residents who have not signed the register for one day to make sure that they are safe and well."

The Shuttleworth was criticised in June 2016 after the decomposing body of a then-resident, Joseph Coughlin, was discovered one of the rooms.

An investigation by the Gazette went on to lift the lid on shocking conditions inside the premises, with rooms infested with bed bugs and allegations of drug dealing and violence.

In 2017 there were 2,700 households registered as homeless in Hackney, with the local authority spending £35m a year to house homeless families in temporary accommodation.

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