Street death scandal: Inquest hears that homeless man’s facial injuries were ‘consistent with rodent activity’
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The drug-related death of a young, homeless man was at first thought to be suspicious – but an inquest heard that marks on his face were probably caused by rats.
Latvian-born Dmitrijs Makejevs was just 23 years old when he was found dead in a disused car wash in Hampstead Road on March 31 this year.
Police discovered his body semi-clothed, wrapped in a mattress and surrounded by drugs paraphernalia after another homeless man raised the alarm.
St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard there were rumours among the homeless community that somebody else may have injected Mr Makejevs with drugs, but police were unable to substantiate the claims.
Mr Makejevs was known to Camden and Islington health trust, and had attended the Margarete Centre for help to stop using legal highs in March 2014, staying in treatment until his death.
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Consultant psychiatrist Dr John Dunn said in a statement that Mr Makejevs had “engaged well” with the service – but the Latvian was in a “complex” situation as he was not allowed to claim benefits and had a history of drug and alcohol misuse.
Dr Dunn said: “We all felt a great affection for Dmitrijs. He had attended the Margarete Centre almost daily over the past two years and we had become very attached to him.”
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The inquest heard from social worker Sarah Green, who works with the homeless community, that Mr Makejevs was not thought to be suicidal but was deemed to be at “high risk” of accidental overdose because of his drug use.
She said he had low self-esteem and a sense of “helplessness” because of his homelessness, and had asked if he could go into hospital as a place of “safety” when he was having thoughts of self-harm.
But Ms Green said hospital was not considered necessary for him at the time, and he was advised to attend A&E if he felt suicidal.
A post-mortem found that drugs present in his system had caused his heart to stop, and that he had puncture marks consistent with drug use.
The pathologist found no injuries consistent with being in a fight – but said that “trauma to the face appeared post-mortem, and could have been caused by rodent activity.”
It was not possible to establish a time of death or to say exactly how long his body had lain undiscovered for.
Assistant Coroner Richard Britain found that Mr Makejevs’ death was “caused by the combined toxic affects of alcohol, cocaine and heroin” and found no evidence of an intentional overdose or third-party involvement.
Mr Makejevs’ death is one of a spate within Camden’s homeless population in the past year – many of them drug and alcohol related but with the poor health and premature ageing associated with street life also factors.
A summit was held in Kentish Town last month calling for more to be done to tackle the growing number of street deaths and the associated problem of legal highs.
The meeting called for an end to the practice of police “moving on” rough sleepers and for a memorial in Camden to highlight the “scandal” of at least four street deaths of relatively young men in the past year.