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Homeless deaths in Kent in last year revealed

By Ed McConnell

At least 13 homeless people died in Kent last year.

Figures released by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism today reveal 449 people have died in the UK since last October.

Of these, 12 happened in this county but the list does not include the death of an unnamed woman found in a sleeping bag in Gravesend in April.

At least 450 died while homeless since October last year
At least 450 died while homeless since October last year

The bureau carried out an extensive investigation after learning no official body counts the number of homeless deaths.

The findings have sparked the Office for National Statistics to start producing its own database.

The case of Russell Lane who died in January after being scooped into back of a bin lorry in Rochester was highlighted by the investigation, which concluded the true number of deaths is likely to be far higher.

A former soldier, a quantum physicist and a travelling musician were among those to die.

The emergency services at the scene of Russell Lane's death
The emergency services at the scene of Russell Lane's death

The youngest people on the list were 18 while the oldest was 94.

The causes of their deaths included murder, suicide and in one case starvation.

The other deaths in Kent include Shelly Pollard, who tragically collapsed and died in Canterbury city centre, and Wesley Gurney, who choked on a piece of steak in Wetherspoon's and died three days later in hospital.

It also featured Canterbury man Simon Lacey, a man in his early 40s who had been suffering from a long-term heart condition and died in hospital.

An unnamed woman was found dead in woodland off Thames Way, Gravesend
An unnamed woman was found dead in woodland off Thames Way, Gravesend

Also from Canterbury were Jason Cox and Robert Wallis.

The list also mentioned Kevin Tridgell in Margate, Neil Martin in Maidstone, John Smith in Ramsgate, William Follett in Dover, and a man known as Dermot in Maidstone.

The findings have been described as a "national scandal" by the chief executives of two homelessness charity.

Howard Sinclair, of St Mungo’s, said the deaths were "premature and entirely preventable.”

Neil Martin, who died in Wickes car park in Maidstone
Neil Martin, who died in Wickes car park in Maidstone
tributes left for Neil MArtin in Jubilee Square. (4684399)
tributes left for Neil MArtin in Jubilee Square. (4684399)
Wesley Gurney choked on a piece of steak at Society Rooms in Maidstone
Wesley Gurney choked on a piece of steak at Society Rooms in Maidstone
Robert Wallis (4684446)
Robert Wallis (4684446)

Polly Neate, of Shelter, said the investigation exposed the "brutality" of the housing crisis, adding: "It is utterly unforgivable that so many homeless people are dying unnoticed and unaccounted for.”

The study shows the average age of those who died was 49 for men and 53 for women, decades younger than the national equivalent.

The number of people sleeping rough has doubled in England and Wales in the last five years, according to the latest figures.

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