- The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Database
- Unknown or Anonymous
- Deaths by Sex of Rough Sleeper
- ONS Data
- Seasonal Death Rates? ONS and The Bureau Compared
- A Few Case Histories
Data here have been taken from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, who obtain their data via crowd sourcing. Their data is summarised at the end of this article as Table 2. What this includes, which ONS data lack, are the names of the deceased (where available), and, in some cases, a brief biography.
The date given in Table 2 is the date of death, or more generally the date at which the body was found, which, in a few cases might be rather later than the death. (This contrasts with ONS data which often give the date of the coroner’s inquest, which can be very much later). Northern Irish dates are labelled “sometime before”, but I interpret that as meaning the date the body was found.
The Bureau started collecting data in October 2017, so the data for England and Wales (and, I think, Scotland) relates to the period from October 2017 to the time of writing (December 2018), but only a few data for December 2018 are in as yet (e.g., Gyula Remes, the man who died outside the MPs’ entrance to the House of Commons on 19th December 2018, is not yet listed – though I’ve added him to my list). Hence these data relate to a period of 14 months.
The Northern Irish data relate to October 2017 to August 2018 (11 months).
There is no obligation on either national Government or local authorities to record data on the deaths of rough sleepers. The Bureau is therefore to be commended in being proactive in compiling these data. Despite many vulnerable people being known to the authorities, local journalists and charities are often the only ones that report these deaths. To compile their list, the Bureau makes use of their extensive network of local journalists to report to the Bureau’s central register what appears in local papers. In addition, the Bureau speaks to councils, hospitals, coroners’ offices, police forces, charities, GPs and NGOs.
The result is a set of definitely identified deaths, but there is no guarantee that all are captured; realistically many will not be. The total number of rough sleeper deaths will therefore be an under-estimate.
Table 1 summarises the data. In England and Wales, 294 deaths are listed, of which 118 (40%) were in Greater London (96 men, 18 women, 4 unspecified). In Scotland there were 103 deaths, and in Northern Ireland 149 deaths.
Given that Northern Ireland has by far the smallest population of the four nations of the UK, the death rate per million population is horrifyingly high. It is not clear if the data from Northern Ireland might have used a broader category of “homeless”, perhaps including some who would not have been classed as rough sleepers in the other nations. Taken at face value, however, the N.Irish death rate is alarming. We will see below that the greatest rough-sleeper death rates in the worst local areas of England and Wales do not exceed 21 per million. That in N.Ireland is over four times greater.
Table 1: Summary of Bureau Data by Nation
|Nation||Deaths||Scaled to 12 months||Deaths per year per million population|
|England & Wales||294||252||4.4|
The populations used to derived Table 1 were: England and Wales 57.9M, Scotland 5.4M, N.Ireland 1.85M.
We will see below that the ONS estimates a far larger total figure for the number of rough sleeper deaths in England and Wales in 2017 (namely 597, more than double that indicated by Tables 1 and 2 based on the Bureau’s database). This serves to illustrate how hard it is to capture rough sleeper deaths with the current ad hoc arrangements. You should therefore imagine the list in Table 2 – already disturbingly long – to be doubled in reality.
The Bureau’s database does not always identify the name of the deceased. The labels “unknown” and “anonymous” are used. I take “unknown” to mean only that their source did not provide the name, though it might be known. However, I interpret “anonymous” to mean the deceased’s name was not known.
Half the Scottish cases and all the N.Irish cases were labelled “unknown”.
The number of deaths in England and Wales labelled “unknown” was 109 out of 294 (37%).
The number of people in England and Wales who died “anonymous”, or for whom only a first name or nickname was known, was 87 (30%). Some of those labelled “unknown” would undoubtedly fall into this category also, so the actual figure of “anonymous” deaths is greater still.
According to ONS estimates (see below) the Bureau have identified only a fraction of rough sleeper deaths, perhaps only about half. So, there are actually even more anonymous deaths.
The main list includes all the cases from England and Wales, and about half the cases from Scotland (mostly those in Glasgow). This list totals 351 deaths, and comprises 223 men, 38 women, and 90 cases where the sex is unknown. The rest of the Scottish data and all the N.Irish data does not specify the sex.
Hence, where sex has been recorded, 85% were men and 15% women. This is in good agreement with ONS estimates, below (84% men). There are 5.7 men dying on the streets for every woman who dies on the steets.
The ONS have been estimating rough sleeper deaths only since 2013. The methodology deployed by ONS starts with death registration records and searches on terms like “no fixed abode”, “homeless” and “night shelter” or the name or address of a known homeless hostel or project. Coroners’ inquest reports are also used as a source. In common with the Bureau’s approach, the ONS searches include homeless people who had been found in need of medical attention in the street and subsequently died in hospital, or other places of medical assistance. The ONS also deploy sophisticated statistical tools to include allowance for more deaths not captured by the direct searches. They state that, “this is a robust but conservative (lower bound) model, so that the figures produced should be taken as the lowest probable estimates.”
The ONS approach is “top down”, whereas the Bureau’s list is “bottom up”.
Key findings from the December 2018 ONS report: Deaths of homeless people in England and Wales: 2013 to 2017 were,
- There were an estimated 597 deaths of homeless people in England & Wales in 2017 (an increase of 24% since 2013);
- Men accounted for 84% of these deaths;
- The top three causes of deaths of the homeless in 2017 were drug poisoning (32%), suicide (13%) and alcohol-specific (10%)
- Although there is a concentration of homeless in London, and hence a concentration of homeless deaths in London, the rough sleeper death rate per million people (15.4) is not the largest, being exceeded by the West of England (21.0), Liverpool (20.5) and Greater Manchester (17.8).
- The peak age for the deaths of rough sleeping men is 45-49, and for women 35-39 (see Figure 1). You don’t live to be old on the streets.
Figure 1: ONS estimate of rough sleeper deaths in England and Wales in 2017 by sex and age (click to enlarge)
The date of deaths (or their discovery) are provided by the Bureau data for England, Wales and part of Scotland (mostly Glasgow), and separately for N.Ireland. The resulting histogram is shown in Figure 2, from October 2017 to November 2018. What this Figure mostly reveals is that the data for September 2018 to November 2018 look incomplete. Possibly data is still being compiled for those recent months, or perhaps the Bureau’s sources have become less energetic of late.
Ignoring those months, and looking at the data for England, Wales and Glasgow, whilst January has the largest number of deaths, and April, May and August the least, a clear seasonal trend is rather undermined by the data for June and July. There is perhaps a clearer trend in the N.Irish data, though even here December and March are anomalous (and recall that March 2018 had particularly severe freezing weather).
Figure 3 is the equivalent data from ONS, Deaths of homeless people in England and Wales: 2013 to 2017. The ONS are unequivocal, stating, “deaths of homeless people lacked a clear seasonal pattern when analysed by month of death. The level of excess winter mortality found in the general population was not apparent”. The ONS used a much larger dataset, namely five years of data, in compiling Figure 3. Surprising though it seems, a seasonal death variation is not apparent.
Figure 2: Deaths per month: Bureau data – click to enlarge
Figure 3: Deaths per month: ONS data (England & Wales) – click to enlarge
Chris Conlin, who died in Leigh, on November 5, 2017, aged 31, became homeless after the death of his mother and brother. Local residents who knew him said he prioritised order ativan food for his dog over himself.
Brodie Rippindale died aged 31 in the closed doorway of a shut Salvation Army office in Falmouth, on 6 December 2017.
Istvan Kakas died in Bath, on October 16, 2018, aged 52. He had been a chef working under both Gordon Ramsay and Michael Caines and had completed more than 250 parachute jumps while on military service. He received a heroism award from the mayor of Bath after he helped save a man and his daughter from drowning. He began selling the Big Issue in 2010.
Craig Cunningham died sleeping rough in Chester, on October 25, 2018. He used to manage a Kwiksave store before falling on hard times.
Ben, of unknown surname, died in Retford, on February 27, 2018, aged 53. He died in his tent in freezing weather conditions. He had only recently been discharged from hospital after being treated for pneumonia. According to a local woman who knew him, Ben had worked as a bricklayer but had stopped working after the death of his partner seven years earlier.
Rob O’Connor died in Chelmsford, on February 23, 2018. He died in a shop doorway on a night when temperatures dropped to -2C. Rob had recently undergone treatment for cancer and had his voice box removed.
An unidentified man died in Barnsley, on February 12, 2018. His body was found in the woods outside Barnsley in freezing cold temperatures. A local homeless charity told the press: “It is unbelievable the conditions they are living in out there, where they are sitting outside absolutely frozen. And there are two or three who have dogs and they would wrap them up rather than themselves. They are wearing four or five layers of clothing just to survive, not only through the night but through the day too.”
Kenneth Howson died in Leeds, on January 5, 2018, aged 65. Kenneth’s decomposed body was found in a field where he lived in a tent.
Jean Louis du Plessis died in Bristol, on January 3, 2018, aged 41. He was found unresponsive and in a “sleeping position” in a car park during the freezing weather of Storm Eleanor. An inquest found him to be in a state of “prolonged starvation”.
Colin Ellis was found dead behind the steering wheel of his car, in which he lived, in late autumn 2017. By the time he was discovered, he had been there for several days. Charity workers recalled Mr Ellis regularly bought food and gave his own cash to other people on the streets.
Darren Greenfield died in Edinburgh, in December, 2017, aged 48, after years of sleeping rough. He had served with the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, the Royal Army Pay Corps and the Adjutant General’s Corps. He became homeless after leaving the army.
Anthony Barnard died in Lowestoft, on December 28, 2017, aged 57. Mr Barnard was found dead in the garden of his former home.
Allan “Scotch” Alexander died while sleeping rough in a car park in Taunton, on Boxing Day 2017. A fellow rough sleeper, told local news: “We went to sleep on the top layer of the car park. I had a quilt, but Alan didn’t have anything except the clothes he was in. It was really cold and raining heavily. We were wet through.”. The day before his death Allan was seen giving away a Christmas meal to a homeless woman by a member of the public.
Henryk Smolarz died in Plymouth city centre, on March 12, 2018, aged 62. His name was provided by a fellow rough sleeper. He was believed to have been Polish and friends say he was a physicist and mathematician.
Hamid Farahi died in Church Langley, in March, 2018, aged 55. Hamid, a quantum physicist who fought in Iraq, was living in the back of his car in a Tesco car park. He moved to a shelter during the cold weather and passed away there.
Stephen Kinghorn was born in South Shields, Country Durham. He attended a sailing school in Hull for five years where he took part in 93/94 tall ships race, coming third with his team. The team also helped to build a school in a remote village in Zimbabwe and sailed to various other places. Stephen left as a fully qualified skipper of small vessels. Things started going downhill when his first child was stillborn and continued to slip further downwards. Stephen went to London and was involved with Love Activists and a homeless kitchen trying to get food for fellow homeless and protesting, etc. He was proud of being part of that. Then his second child died, which was the catalyst to sending him rock bottom. Stephen died in London on 19th March 2018. He was 39 years old.
Ryan McGurgan died in Leeds, on April 10, 2018, aged 33. He was found dead in a hostel for homeless men on the morning he was due to be recalled to prison.
Mary Lane died in Gravesend, on April 22, 2018, aged 53. Her body was found in a sleeping bag in the woods. She was not identified for many weeks and it was apparent she had been there for some time.
Only known as “Tibby”, this Romanian man died in his wheelchair after volunteers reported he looked frail and very neglected (Stratford, June 7, 2018, aged 50).
An unnamed 22 year-old woman was found on fire at an emergency shelter hostel in Derby on August 25, 2018. She was taken to hospital where she died. A city support worker told the press “She had her issues in life but the most tragic thing in all of this is that she was getting better.”
An unnamed 31 year old man was found dead on Westgate, Wakefield, on August 20, 2018. The manager of the Community Awareness Programme said “We are watching them die – you end up getting used to it and we don’t want that to happen.”
Remigiusz Boczarski had been living in a bus shelter in Malvern when he died, apparently from suicide, on October 30, 2018, aged 40. A local woman who befriended him told press: “He would turn up at my door and I would wash his clothes and give him a meal. He was always a really nice guy. He never overstayed his welcome.” It seems he decided not to overstay his welcome on this mortal coil, either.
Table 2: The complete Bureau data as of 27/12/18
|Anonymous man||6 Oct’17||London|
|Anonymous man||8 Oct’17||London|
|Vadims Saltis||Oct’17||King’s Lynn|
|Anonymous man||26 Oct’17||London|
|Anonymous man||6 Nov’17||London|
|Anonymous man||7 Nov’17||London|
|Anonymous1 man||10 Nov’17||London|
|Anonymous2 woman||10 Nov’17||London|
|Anonymous1 woman||12 Nov’17||London|
|Anonymous2 man||12 Nov’17||London|
|Anonymous man||13 Nov’17||London|
|Anonymous man||19 Nov’17||London|
|Lindy Louise Pring||Nov’17||Cardiff|
|Anonymous man||28 Nov’17||London|
|Anonymous man||17 Dec’17||London|
|Anonymous man||18 Dec’17||London|
|Anonymous man||19 Dec’17||London|
|Leslie Smith (male)||Dec’17||Hull|
|Anonymous man||23 Dec’17||London|
|Allan Alexander “Scotch”||Dec’17||Taunton|
|Anonymous man||27 Dec’17||London|
|Louise Beddingfield||Dec’17||Bognor Regis|
|Anonymous man||2 Jan’18||London|
|Jean Louis du Plessis||Jan’18||Bristol|
|Anonymous man||5 Jan’18||London|
|Anonymous man||12 Jan’18||London|
|Laura Cairns||Jan’18||Leamington Spa|
|Anonymous man||13 Jan’18||London|
|Anonymous man||17 Jan’18||London|
|Anonymous man||21 Jan’18||London|
|Anonymous man||22 Jan’18||London|
|Anonymous man||28 Jan’18||London|
|Anonymous man||29 Jan’18||London|
|Anonymous man||1 Feb’18||London|
|Anonymous man||5 Feb’18||London|
|Gareth Turp||Feb’18||Milton Keynes|
|Anonymous man||7 Feb’18||London|
|Anonymous man||9 Feb’18||London|
|Anonymous man||11 Feb’18||London|
|Anonymous man||13 Feb’18||London|
|Anonymous man||27 Feb’18||London|
|Anonymous man||12 Mar’18||London|
|Unknown man||Mar’18||Market Harborough|
|Hamid Farahi||Mar’18||Church Langley|
|Parmajit Singh||Mar’18 ?||London|
|William Morrow||4 Apr’18||Brighton|
|Anonymous woman||7 Apr’18||London|
|Anonymous man||9 Apr’18||London|
|Arna Bud-Husain (male)||Apr’18||Brighton|
|Anonymous man||23 Apr’18||London|
|Lesley Roberts (female)||Apr’18||Swansea|
|Anonymous woman||2 May’18||London|
|Anonymous woman||11 May’18||London|
|Anonymous woman||14 May’18||London|
|Anonymous man||15 May’18||London|
|Anonymous man||15 May’18||London|
|Anonymous man||22 May’18||London|
|Anonymous man||23 May’18||London|
|Anonymous woman||15 May’18||London|
|Unknown woman||26 May’18||Islington|
|Alain Ettiern Simmonds||Jun’18||Shifnal, Shropshire|
|Anonymous woman||2 Jun’18||London|
|Anonymous man||9 Jun’18||London|
|Anonymous man||13 Jun’18||London|
|Anonymous woman||13 Jun’18||London|
|Anonymous woman||15 Jun’18||London|
|Anonymous man||16 Jun’18||London|
|Anonymous man||21 Jun’18||London|
|Noah Jones||Jun’18||Tunbridge Wells|
|Anonymous man||30 Jun’18||London|
|Unknown||Jun’18||Argyll and Bute|
|Anonymous woman||3 Jul’18||London|
|“CB” (male)||4 Jul’18||Brighton|
|Anonymous man||4 Jul’18||London|
|Anonymous man||18 Jul’18||London|
|Anonymous man1||20 Jul’18||London|
|Anonymous man2||20 Jul’18||London|
|Donn Joseph Morgan||Jul’18||Manchester|
|Andrew Te Hira||Jul’18||London|
|Stephanie Fraser||1 Aug’18||Dundee|
|Anonymous man||1 Aug’18||London|
|Anonymous man||2 Aug’18||London|
|Anonymous man||6 Aug’18||London|
|Anonymous woman||26 Aug’18||London|
|Unknown||Sep’18||Argyll and Bute|
|Terry ?||Sep’18||Isle of Wight|
|Anonymous man||15 Sep’18||London|
|Unknown||26 Sep’18||East Ayrshire|
|Unknown||29 Sep’18||East Ayrshire|
|Unknown man||20 Oct’18||Manchester|
|Unknown man||21 Oct’18||Manchester|
|Unknown man1||27 Oct’18||Plymouth|
|Unknown man2||27 Oct’18||Plymouth|
|Remigiusz Boczarski (male)||Oct’18||Malvern|
|Gyula Remes||Dec’18||London (Westminster)|
|The following have no specified month of death…|
|Jaroslaw Lebda B||2018||London|
|Unknown x4 ?||2018||Newhaven|
|Unknown x2 ?||2018||Harlow|
|The following relate to Scotland….|
|The following relate to Northern Ireland (149 cases, Oct’17 to Aug’18).
None were named, nor was the sex identified. Regions were specified but not recorded here….