Posted on September 23, 2010

Pensioner Takes Dogs for Walk . . . and Returns to Find Locks Changed and a Family Living in His Home

Daily Mail (London), September 22, 2010

A pensioner who took his dogs out for a walk returned to find a family had moved into his home.

George Pope, 72, was unable to get into his council house because the locks were changed.

Mr Pope left his home in Barking, Essex, to take his dogs out to nearby Parsloes Park last Thursday, September 16.

The arthritis sufferer, who needs a stick to walk, started feeling ill and decided to stay at a friend’s house until he was well enough to go home.

But when he returned to his house on Saturday morning, he was stunned to discover his locks had been changed.

He claims a man then walked up the path to his house and accosted him.

‘I said, “This is my place”. But he said, “This is our property and we intend to stay here unless you go to court”. It made me feel ill.’

He added: ‘I have been shaking ever since. I get panic attacks. It’s just terrible.’

Mr Pope immediately called the council and police.

But he claims they told him the new occupants could not be evicted because they were themselves victims of a scam.

Mr Pope said police claimed the residents, who he believes are from Lithuania, had paid £3,000 to a bogus estate agent to rent the property themselves for six months.

The retired Dagenham Ford worker, who was forced to stay with friends, said: ‘Police told me it looked like a civil matter.

‘But the squatters were using my home, my gas and my electricity–it’s absolutely disgraceful.’

Mr Pope went back to his house on Monday morning to find all his belongings had been thrown out.

Neighbours then helped him gather up his documents, photographs and clothes.

Mr Pope suspects illegal estate agents of occupying buildings and letting them for money.

‘I had been out for just two-and-a-half days. Someone must have been watching me,’ he said.

‘The rear door had been levered out with screwdrivers–that’s how they got in.

‘My neighbours are now too frightened to go out anywhere in case the same happens to them,’ he added.

A Met Police spokeswoman said: ‘Police are investigating a civil dispute where there may have been fraudulent sub-letting of the premises.

‘Anyone with information concerning the person who has fraudulently advertised this property for rent and subsequently changed the locks should contact Barking and Dagenham Police.’

Mr Pope, who has lived in the house for four years, was able to move back into his home last night after the family fled but said he is now scared to be there because next door is also being occupied by squatters.

He also claims some of his possessions, including a washing machine and an electric cooker have been taken and that the electricity system has been tampered with.

‘The wiring has been ripped out and there are burn marks,’ he said.

‘The whole experience has been really traumatic.’

A Barking and Dagenham council spokesman said council officers visited the house yesterday and found it to be empty, allowing Mr Pope to move back in.

‘The council’s repair service changed the locks and Mr Pope was able to return to his home,’ he said.

‘This was a highly unusual situation and we are working closely with the police to try and determine exactly what happened.

‘By taking quick action we have been able to restore Mr Pope to his home without the need to apply to court for an eviction notice. This would have been a very lengthy process.

‘We are also aware of a housing association property in this street that is also being squatted.

‘We have contacted the housing association concerned and have asked them to try and resolve the situation.

‘We are extremely pleased that Mr Pope is back in his own home.’