I was forced to sleep with cockroaches in faeces-covered council flat – and I still rely on a respirator to breathe

A MAN who was forced to sleep on a mattress with cockroaches in a faeces-covered council flat has been left relying on a respirator to breathe despite finally being moved out.

Mehdi Sheikh, 48, was left "suffocating" in his squalid home in Lewisham for years with shocking photos showing thick black mould caking the walls and faeces-infested water seeping down the walls.

The distraught tenant still relies on a respirator to breathe despite being moved out of the flat which was deemed "unfit for humans".

After initially being relocated in different hotels, he was eventually set up in a one-bedroom flat with his four cats in the south east London borough in October.

But weeks later, an operation to remove kidney stones – which should have seen him discharged within hours – left him bed-bound at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for 25 days.

Mehdi, who went under the knife on November 17, told The Sun: "I only went in there for a few hours and ended up staying for three weeks. It was horrible.

"That should have been a simple operation over and done with quickly but they said I was too ill to go home. They put me under the machines to do all the tests and I was too weak.

"I blame my old flat and Lewisham Homes. It would have severely weakened my immune system and has clearly damaged my health.

"There was urine and faecal contaminated water coming into my home and I was sleeping on a mattress with cockroaches, centipedes and mice."

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His debilitating issues and "fear of darkness" means he struggles to sleep through the night and often rides around town on his electric wheelchair between 2am and 5am.

While relieved to finally be out the black mould-caked flat, he is still waiting to move 80 per cent of his possessions into his new home.

But downsizing from his old two-bed flat of 20 years to a one-bed with his carers and friends staying to look after him means room is tight.

Mehdi said: "It's better but I'm not happy. I'm still so depressed in this place.

"I'm a disabled person in a wheelchair living with 20 per cent of my possessions in a one-bed flat. I was supposed to be getting a two bed like I have always had.

"They are saying a one-bed is enough and this is my new permanent home but I have had no change of circumstances. I require a two-bed for my extra needs which requires people to stay with me and care for me.

"I have been back to my old flat many times to move stuff out and it is bittersweet because I have many memories.

"That was my home for two decades so it is hard to see it in that state. But they just could not fix it.

"For now I remain in limbo as I'm treating this as temporary. It's a blame game between Lewisham Homes and Lewisham Council and I'm stuck in the middle."

He added: "Part of me would have been happier staying in hotels as I would have an extra room. It is very cramped.

"And I have already found signs of mould and fungus growing in my new kitchen."


Mehdi, who takes almost 40 tablets a day to ease his chronic back and leg pain after falling down concrete steps in 1995 while training to be a chef, is planning to launch a campaign for better social housing in the UK.

He has written to the Queen and Boris Johnson explaining his plight and is planning to organise a march on 10 Downing Street after his social media rally gathers momentum.

Mehdi added: "My solicitor said we might have to make me homeless again if we want to fight for a two-bedroom home. I want to fight and I will keep fighting.

"Hotels are not ideal. But I will not back down. I don't know where I'm going next. And I have no idea how long this battle will go on.

"But I do know I have a bit more energy and I'm feeling slightly better. I'm not the only one going through this and I want to bring together others who are going through similar issues as we have strength in numbers.

"I will put my story on social media and use it to call for better housing. So many properties in the UK are not properly maintained.

"Where does all the money from central government go? These people do not understand our living situations."

Lewisham Homes, the social housing provider who manages properties on behalf of the local council, has apologised to Mehdi for the state of his previous home in Lewisham.

In a statement issued in September, chief executive Margaret Dodwell said: "We realise Mehdi has been put in a very difficult and distressing position, and we apologise to him for the condition of his home.

"Although we did make attempts to resolve the leaks, the service he has received is of an unacceptable standard.

"We are working closely with Mr Sheikh to find a new home.

"The increasing complexity of his needs and low availability of accessible properties, along with his understandable wish to keep his pets, have made that very challenging."

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