A rough sleeper whose death yards from Parliament in the week before Christmas sparked a national debate about homelessness was just days away from starting a new job, an inquest heard.
Gyula Zoltan Remes, 43, was found unconscious in the tunnel near Westminster tube station on December 19th last year, the hearing was told.
He had been sleeping rough around London at different times since 2006 – but had recently been offered a full-time job at a restaurant, the inquest at Southwark Coroner’s Court heard.
But, because he had not started work, Mr Remes was rejected from emergency accommodation a week before his death due to the hostel’s strict criteria.
His death led to questions being asked in the House of Commons as he was the second rough sleeper to die yards from the House.
Referring to Mr Remes, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire told the House: “I am clear that one death on our streets is one too many and it is simply unacceptable to see lives cut short this way.”
Recording a verdict of an alcohol-related death, Deputy Coroner Dr Philip Barlow said: “It is of course impossible to note the evidence in this case without considering the particular sadness that Mr Remes was hoping to find work.
“And he suffered this cardiac arrest in the City of London near Westminster station just before Christmas.”
The inquest heard that Mr Remes arrived in London in 2006 from his native Hungary, and had been been living in both hostels and on the streets up until 2013.
He then left Britain and worked for five years in Malta, Hungary and Paris before returning to London last September.
It was said on his return Mr Remes started working ‘irregular hours’ as a street cleaner, but was offered a job as a kitchen porter on December 17 – two days before he died.
The inquest heard he was thrown out of a hostel on October 25 last year for ‘returning home late three nights in a row’.
He was then rejected twice for emergency accommodation at The Connection in St Martin in The Fields – in October and on December 11.
As a result, Mr Remes was sleeping rough in the tunnel to Westminster tube station on December 19 when he started ‘convulsing, turned blue and stopped breathing’.
Station staff also reported seeing him surrounded by ’empty cans’.
Despite resuscitation attempts, Mr Remes was pronounced dead at nearby St Thomas Hospital after being in cardiac arrest for an hour-and-a-half.
The inquest heard that although Mr Remes had smoked a cigarette butt he found on the floor before he died, it was not laced with the drug spice as had been suspected.
Dr Barlow said: “There was no sign of synthetic cannabis in the toxicology tests.”
A post-mortem found Mr Remes had 369mg of alcohol in 100ml of urine, more than three times the drink-drive limit.
Dr Barlow ruled Mr Remes’ low temperature on arrival to hospital was ‘not significant’ and he did not die as a result of hypothermia.
He said: “Mr Remes’ temperature was noted to be 33.3 degrees Celsius, this is a mild hypothermia.
“But this is not an unusual finding for a patient who had been in cardiac arrest for this period of time and was transported to hospital in December.”
The post-mortem gave cause of death as cardiac respiratory arrest and acute alcohol toxicity.
Dr Barlow read statements from St Mungo’s Outreach team as well as homeless charity The Connection at St Martin in The Field’s (CSTM).
Jeremy Bernhaut, of The Connection at St Martin in The Field’s (CSTM), said: “From September 14th, 2018, up until his death Mr Remes was in a system which provided him with assistance towards his goal of finding work.
“On September 24 we helped him to get evidence of his National Insurance number and with job searches.
“We were informed he was staying at a hostel which offered 12 weeks for men looking for work.
“But on October 25 he had been asked to leave this hostel as a result of him coming in late three nights in a row.
“We asked if he wanted a referral for a winter shelter called Glass Doors, but he did not wish to be referred.
“He asked to be referred to CSTM emergency accommodation but they have limited bed space and clear criteria of how you can access it.
“As he had not started work and his work hours were due to be irregular at least initially, he did not meet the criteria.
“On December 11 he asked for access for CSTM weekend accommodation services and he did not meet the criteria for referral.
“On December 13 he said he was staying in a hostel in Kensal Green.
“He met his case officer in a drop-in on December 17 and confirmed he was working cash in hand and had a potential offer of kitchen porter work and was given clothing for work. His aim was to find employment.
On December 17 his short term goal was to find work as a kitchen worker and in the long term, to get a forklift licence.
“He did not disclose any alcohol or drugs issues to us.”
Mr Bernhaut added the only evidence they had of alcohol misuse was from three occasions.
He said in October last year a ‘potential employer’ had raised concerns that Mr Remes smelt of alcohol and on November 16 charity workers had also noticed the smell.
Mr Bernhaut added: “He was advised he smelt strongly of alcohol and should address this before job interviews. On September 14 he again smelt of alcohol.”
Kathleen Sims, of St Mungo’s Outreach, said it was staff from her team that had arrived on December 19 to discover Mr Remes had been taken away in an ambulance.
She said: “The staff arrived at Westminster tube station at 12.20am on December 19th.
“Paramedics had already arrived at the scene and Mr Remes was being taken to St Thomas Hospital.
“There were four other people at the location presumed to be sleeping rough. One who identified themselves as Gabor Kasza stated he was a good friend of the deceased.
“The staff witnessed empty cans around the area where Mr Remes had picked up a disused butt off the floor which may have contained spice because after he smoked it he was convulsing, turned blue and stopped breathing.”
Recording a verdict of an alcohol-related death, Dr Barlow said he accepted a cause of death as acute alcohol toxicity that caused a cardiac respiratory arrest.
He added: “It’s clear from the evidence that Mr Remes was a 43-year-old man, that he was homeless, he had worked in different countries including Malta, France and Hungary.
“He had spent time rough sleeping in London, but had also managed to find work and was hoping to get a licence as a fork lift driver.
“On occasion he managed to get accommodation in hostels but that wasn’t always available for him and it wasn’t always something that he wanted.
“It’s no doubt a measure of the pressure the various charities and organisations are under that he didn’t always meet the criteria for accommodation.
“It’s also clear that there are periods when he misused alcohol. There’s no evidence that he had taken any other drugs.
“My overall conclusion is to be a short-form conclusion that the death is alcohol-related.
“It is of course impossible to note the evidence in this case without considering the particular sadness that Mr Remes was hoping to find work and he suffered this cardiac arrest near Westminster station just shortly before Christmas.”