Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Inquiry requested following death

Taken from EDP website on 27/12/09. Article written by Ian Clarke. Norfolk's chief constable has been asked to order an urgent inquiry after a Polish man froze to death in a tent in Thetford. The body of Mariusz Fidos, 33, was found at Barnham Common five days before Christmas and he had been sleeping rough in the area with other men, including his twin brother Piotr. It remains unclear how long they had been staying in the area, but there are reports they had been there for several weeks. Peter Smith, Labour parliamentary candidate for South West Norfolk, said he was “extremely concerned” about the events surrounding Mr Fidos's death, especially what had been done to help him and other men . Breckland Council said four men were found sleeping in the area in October, but the Fidos brothers were not among them. Mr Smith said: “I am alarmed that a situation, which was known about for some weeks, was not acted upon in sufficient time to prevent this completely avoidable death.” In a letter to Norfolk police chiefs, Mr Smith said: “What we now see is a concerted effort by Breckland Council to promote the idea that officers and councillors had done everything possible for Mariusz and his fellow 'campers'. This is so evidently not the case.” Mr Smith added: “I am therefore asking you to initiate an urgent police inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding this tragedy, including the roles of all the agencies involved. It is indeed an irony that the Safer Thetford Action Group, knowing in advance of this developing situation, was unable to ensure the safety of this unfortunate man.” A post-mortem examination revealed early indications are that Mr Fidos died from hypothermia. The case has now been passed to the coroner. Police said the man's death remains “unexplained” but a spokesman said there were no suspicious circumstances. Police did not want to comment on Mr Smith's letter. Thetford town councillor Terry Jermy said: “I think we owe it to Mr Fidos to properly examine what happened and learn lessons so that this cannot happen again. I cannot believe that in this country today, someone can be allowed to die from the cold in a tent.” A Breckland Council spokesman said: “In early October, the housing advice and homelessness service visited Barnham Cross Common to offer advice to four men who had been reported as sleeping in a tent. Mariusz and Piotr Fidos were not among the men who were occupying the tent at that time.” A statement said the men were offered help to travel to their home countries, but they declined and expressed a wish to continue living in the tent on the Common. The council has not said how long it though the Fidos brothers had been on the Common.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Homeless man dies on Barnham Cross Common from hypothermia

Taken from the EDP website, story printed on 22nd December 2009.The body of a man who had been sleeping rough in sub-zero temperatures has been found on the outskirts of Thetford. The dead man, who was from Poland and was found in a tent on Barnham Cross Common has been named as 33-year-old Mariusz Fidos. Yesterday team rector of Thetford, Canon Bob Baker and Thetford mayor, Pam Spencer, both spoke on behalf of the town of their sadness over the tragedy. "The people of Thetford are shocked and saddened. We don't know what the circumstances are surrounding this man's death but clearly, if there are lessons to learned, we must learn from them and ensure that this does not happen again," said Canon Baker. Mrs Spencer said: "My thoughts are with the relatives and friends of the deceased at was must be a particularly difficult time." It is understood that Mr Fidos was sharing the tent with his twin brother and a friend, all three being Polish nationals. A fourth man, also believed to be Eastern European, was in a tent on his own by the dead man's tent. The three other men have since been provided with emergency accommodation in Norwich. Mr Fidos was found dead on Sunday. A post-mortem examination carried out later that evening revealed early indications are that he died from hypothermia. The case has now been passed to the coroner. Police said the man's death remains "unexplained" but police said there were no suspicious circumstances. John Walker, of Breckland Council's housing advice and home-lessness service, described Mr Fidos' death as an "appalling tragedy". He said that the authority was not aware that Mr Fidos was sleeping rough on the Common and had not had any direct contact with him. He said Breckland Council was working hard with the police and other agencies in the Thetford area to ensure that everyone was aware when people were sleeping rough and then provide what help they could. Council officials, had, however, been aware in October of three men sleeping rough on Barnham Common. The group were advised of their housing options and also offered assistance to travel to their home countries but they declined such help. "We can't force people to return to their home countries if they do not want to go," said Mr Walker. Thetford town councillor Terry Jermy, whose ward covers the Barnham Common area, said that although housing officers were aware of people sleeping rough on the Common, he did not feel it was a priority to them. He was angry at the situation and suggested that a caravan could have been provided on the town's travel-lers' site which had not yet been used. "At least on that site they could have been free from harm," he said. He is calling for a serious look at the homelessness issue in Thetford. There is a facility for the homeless in Thetford at John Room House but it is currently closed for major refurbishment. Breckland Cabinet member with responsibility for housing, Paul Claussen said the authority took the homelessness issue very seriously and would be working with partner agencies to ensure that such a tragedy did not happen again. Mr Claussen stressed he was not aware of all the details of the case, but Mr Walker and his team did their utmost to find accommodation for people in difficulties. "We do encourage people to be our eyes and ears and let us know when they are aware of people facing difficulties with accommodation," he said