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Squatters invade home of Thornton Heath dementia sufferer

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A FAMILY of Argentinean squatters who moved into a dementia sufferer's home may be a target of a scam themselves, according to a solicitor who has met them before. The family of two adults and five children began living at the property in Bensham Lane, Thornton Heath at the end of March. Shirley Tongue, the sister of the homeowner who is currently in a care home nearby, was called up by neighbours to say squatters had moved all the furniture into Tesco trolleys and left her important papers outside. Shirley Tongue, 76, said she felt both the police and Croydon Council were failing to come to her aid, as she battled to secure the property. "My sister, Sylvia Blake, was put into residential care in August last year and so her property has been left empty," she explained. "She has dementia so the house was passed over to the responsibility of the council. "I have been back and forth between the police and the council, and neither will take responsibility for it." Police were called to the property in Bensham Lane, Thornton Heath, about a month ago and removed the family. However, as soon as they left, the squatters moved back in again. The family, who speak no English, told the Advertiser last week in Spanish that they had come to the UK from Argentina four months ago. Mrs Tongue said the police had told her they had found a rent receipt for £1,000 per month, which made her think the whole saga may be a scam. "I am so angry," she said. "If those squatters are paying someone rent then someone obviously told them they could live there and I want to find out who is taking the rent. They don't speak English, so I can't see how they could possibly fake the documents. "Really, I am angry at the council and the police for failing to do anything and laying responsibility at each other's door. No one seems to know anything." This week, a solicitor from Allen Barfields, Christopher Thomas, got in touch with the Advertiser to say he had represented an elderly man whose property had also been occupied by the Argentinean family. "It was my secretary who pointed it out. We saw the photo in the paper and thought 'Those are some familiar faces'. "It is definitely the same family. Again, they produced a £1,000 per month tenancy agreement. The last I saw of them was when they were evicted on March 27 and they were just out on the street. "They were very kind people and invited us in for tea. The father was quite upset. They had brought along a man, not related to the family, who spoke good enough English. "They kept saying 'Bambino, bambino' (translated: small child). "Now the same thing has happened in a different property and it sounds like there may be a fraudster who, if put in contact with families looking for accommodation, gives them false tenancy in empty properties." A council spokesman said that because squatting in residential property became a criminal offence last September and that the issue was therefore a police matter. However, a police spokesman from the Met said the Crown Prosecution Service guidelines suggested it was still a matter for councils to deal with if there had been no violent entry. Jad Adams, of Croydon homelessness charity Nightwatch, said: "This would be a very difficult case. The children might get taken into care if the family have the right to be here, or they might get repatriated if they don't. "However, if this is a scam, it is likely that this is happening to a lot of immigrant families, not just one, and it something the police would do well to look into." Mr Thomas said: "I have a feeling the police are leaving this issue well alone. The squatting ban is a new piece of legislation and I don't think they want to look into whether it may be a fraud."

Squatters invade home of Thornton Heath dementia sufferer


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