5 Apr 2013

Film-maker Lee Halpin dies during homeless probe

Aspiring documentary maker Lee Halpin has been found dead while sleeping rough as part of his research into homelessness. He is believed to have frozen to death.

Lee Halpin had decided to spend the week living on the streets in his home city of Newcastle to experience what it was like to be homeless and sleeping rough.

Speaking in a YouTube video of the eve of the project, he said he wanted to give an example of fearless reporting, as part of an application for a Channel 4 investigative journalism scheme.

But after just three days on Sunday, the 26-year-old was found dead in a derelict building in the Westgate Road. The coldest recorded temperature that weekend in Newcastle was -4 C.

I will interact with as many homeless people as possible and immerse myself in that lifestyle as deeply as I can – Lee Halpin

Police have arrested two men on suspicion of supplying a controlled drug. Both have been released on police bail.

Halpin said he had spoken to a homeless charity about the rise in the number of people on the streets and the possible repercussions of the bedroom tax.

“I’m about to go and spend a week being homeless in the West End of Newcastle. I will sleep rough for a week, scrounge for my food, access the services that other homeless individuals use,” he said.

“I will interact with as many homeless people as possible and immerse myself in that lifestyle as deeply as I can.”

He concluded the video by saying he hoped it showed his willingness to get to the heart of a story.

‘The ultimate sacrifice’

Lee’s friend Daniel Lake told the Newcastle Chronicle: “No-one knows how he passed away, but we think it could have been hypothermia.

“He made the ultimate sacrifice trying to raise awareness about what was happening to other people.”

A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “We are saddened to learn of the tragic death of this aspiring young journalist. Our thoughts are with his family.”

According to figures from the Crisis charity, last year around 2,300 people were sleeping rough in the UK on any one night.

However the charity warns that due to the difficulties of tracking rough sleepers, the actual figure is likely to be much higher.