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Smell lingers at former Herne Bay flat of 'Birdman' four years after he died

Residents in a block of flats are being plagued by the stench of “rotting meat” - four years after the death of an animal-lover neighbour dubbed “Birdman”.

David Turner fed and nurtured dozens of birds, including a pet seagull called Bruce, from his top-floor property in High Street, Herne Bay.

The boarded up entrance to the flat in High Street, Herne Bay, where 'Birdman' used to live
The boarded up entrance to the flat in High Street, Herne Bay, where 'Birdman' used to live

But it is thought several pigeons – as well as Bruce – were in the flat with the 71-year-old when he died suddenly in 2017.

They later starved, and for several months afterwards neighbours had to endure the smell of decomposition permeating through the building.

The front door to the property was boarded up, with a poster stuck to it warning of a “possible health risk” inside and that anyone wishing to enter would need to wear protective suits and masks.

In 2018, Canterbury City Council paid for a company to clean the property after the new owners failed to carry out the work.

However, residents are questioning the thoroughness of the work, as they say the foul smell continues to waft into their homes.

Self-employed Sue Glover, who has owned a flat in the block for the last 14 years, said: “There are times when it smells absolutely rank. It’s a sewage and rotten-meat smell.

“There is something generating the smell still, and there’s a health issue around that.

“If anybody wanted to sell a flat up there, what chance will you have when it’s in the vicinity of something warning of a potential biohazard?

“I know all the time he was alive there were issues – the management company was having to talk to him about feeding birds because there were hundreds of pigeons and seagulls hanging around.”

Mr Turner’s love for the creatures prompted his neighbours in Frances Court to complain to the city council in 2012 and 2013 about pigeon feeding.

Frances Court in High Street, Herne Bay
Frances Court in High Street, Herne Bay

The local authority contacted the managing agents for the block at the time to recommend they pigeon-proof the property.

Ms Glover believes the workers employed by the council did not go into the loft in Mr Turner’s flat, where, she says, he stored shoeboxes containing the bodies of dead birds.

“There have been times when the stench is really very unpleasant,” she continued.

“It is intermittent. It’s worse when it’s hot and when the wind’s blowing from certain directions.

“To get to my flat, the smell has to go through fire doors and past two other flats.”

In emails to Ms Glover five months ago, a member of the city council’s environmental protection team said the stench was more likely to have been “caused by birds still getting into the flat”.

He explained this was because “any dead birds there might have been would have long since decomposed beyond the point of giving off any smell”.

Former publican Mr Turner is believed to have died of interstitial lung fibrosis.

His body was discovered by the emergency services in October 2017, after building director Mark Simon grew concerned for the septuagenarian when he realised he had not seen him for several days.

Mr Simon told KentOnline: “I know some of the residents have contacted the council and the managers of the building have tried.

"If anybody wanted to sell a flat up there, what chance will you have when it’s in the vicinity of something warning of a potential biohazard?"

“The other three residents on the top floor say they smell it.

“I know one of the residents moved out because she got so fed up with it. We all feel exhausted about it.”

The council previously told Ms Glover they would have to apply for a warrant from magistrates before entering the privately-owned flat once again.

Spokesman Leo Whitlock added: “This is a tragic story and we have no wish to add to the distress of those involved almost three years later.

“A notice was served on the property in 2018. When the work was not carried out by the owners, we paid for a company to clean up the contamination.

“Those costs will be recouped when the property is sold.

“Any notices on the property have not come from us.

“Residents can contact us via our website or by emailing envhealth@canterbury.gov.uk.”

Read more: All the latest news from Herne Bay

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