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Forgotten man lay dead for months

Shock discovery of heavily decomposed body inside flat prompts questions over cuts to public services

06 October, 2017 — By Joe Cooper

Police broke down the door at Renford Beech’s home before discovering his decomposed body

QUESTIONS have been raised about cuts to public services after a man who suffered from mental health problems lay dead in his flat for months without anyone knowing.

The body of Renford Beech was in the advanced stages of decomposition and partially mummified when the police broke down the door. A political canvasser raised the alarm after noticing a large build-up of rubbish in the window of the property in Witley Road, Archway.

Mr Beech was found on top of a pile of rubbish and empty plastic bottles.

Richard Brittain, a coroner at St Pancras Coroner’s Court, said on Wednesday that Mr Beech died from natural causes before the long wait for his body to be discovered.

Little is known about his life, but Mr Beech had lived in the area for around 40 years and is understood to be of Caribbean origin. At one time he lived with his partner and children in the house.

A neighbour, who was able to identify Mr Beech by looking at his hair, said he had developed serious mental health issues, rarely went out and would not let people into his home.

The neighbour, who did not wish to be named but had known for Mr Beech for 30 years, said: “It’s very sad. He kept himself to himself and he would often shout at people outside. Before he had a breakdown he would talk about his love of cars.

“He was difficult, you couldn’t really engage in conversation with him later on, but I feel bad for him. I feel he was let down. He never had any visitors. He clearly had mental health issues but no one came to see him. It’s a real problem as there doesn’t seem to be the resources to look after these people.”

Islington has a significantly higher level of mental health need compared to the rest of London. One in six adults in the borough has at least one diagnosed mental health problem and even for people in touch with services, the mortality rate is more than three-and-a-half times higher than the general population. People from black and minority ethnic backgrounds have a significantly higher prevalence of diagnosis of psychotic disorders.

Cllr Janet Burgess: ‘We want to do more to tackle social isolation and loneliness and make sure that all council staff – wherever they work – play a part in identifying and helping residents who are lonely’

Hannah Kalmanowitz, chief executive of the Angel-based Stuart Low Trust, which supports people experiencing social isolation or mental distress, said cuts were having a negative impact on people who are suffering.

“I have noticed more and more people coming to us over the past three years, in particular from other boroughs, which suggests something is missing there,” she said.

The trust provides a variety of activities that are open to all, including Friday evening social events, a gardening club and a singing group.

Ms Kalmanowitz said providing a welcoming atmosphere for those who find it hard to go out was key. She added: “When it comes to authority, many people are scared off, especially on the clinical side of things. When people come to us, we are not waving forms at them. We don’t know what it’s taken for them to just get through our door.”

She said cases of social isolation were all too common in Islington.

“One woman we had – she had not been out in four years and her first visit was to us. I think the fact that in Islington you have such extremes be­tween wealth and poverty makes things worse.”

Ms Kalmanowitz also praised Islington Council’s commitment to mental health.

A pathologist was unable to determine the cause of death with certainty, but Mr Brittain said that heart disease was likely to have played a part in his death.

There was no evidence to suggest how long Mr Beech had been dead, so his date of death was given as May 6. The coroner’s office was unable to identify any next of kin.

Cllr Janet Burgess, executive member for health, said: “We work closely with the voluntary and community sector, which play a key role in reaching out to residents who otherwise might have very limited social contact. We want to do more to tackle social isolation and loneliness and make sure that all council staff – wherever they work – play a part in identifying and helping residents who are lonely.”

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