The son of an elderly woman killed in a fire has accused Havering Council of a “whitewash” over her death.

The council has admitted that it was contacted with concerns over the welfare of Rosslyn Wolff every year for five years – but denied any failures in its response.

Instead, it said that when staff tried to ring Rosslyn's son Gary Parkin back, he didn’t answer.

Mr Parkin lodged a formal complaint with Havering Council after Mrs Wolff, 74, died in her Myrtle Road, Harold Hill home in January 2022.

A discarded cigarette caused a blaze in her living room, which was piled with rubbish.

Mr Parkin said he and his aunt had raised concerns about Mrs Wolff’s mental state and living conditions for years.

Her flea-infested house was filled with dog and rodent faeces and piles of months-old rubbish, East London Coroners’ Court heard last year.

The court was told that relatives believed she had dementia, as she consistently refused help.

When they turned to the authorities, they were told Mrs Wolff had capacity, so they had to respect her refusal of help.

It has since emerged that she never had a formal capacity test.

Romford Recorder: Rosslyn Wolff's home in Myrtle Road, Romford, was filled with rubbish and faeces - but her refusals of help were accepted on grounds that she had 'capacity'Rosslyn Wolff's home in Myrtle Road, Romford, was filled with rubbish and faeces - but her refusals of help were accepted on grounds that she had 'capacity' (Image: Gary Parkin)

Mental health service North East London NHS Foundation Trust has admitted “individual failings” by staff but denied systemic issues.

However, Havering Council last month failed to uphold any of Mr Parkin’s complaints over its own involvement.

It admitted it had been alerted to concerns in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

But it claimed that its efforts to ring Mr Parkin back were often unsuccessful and that Mrs Wolff had also not given consent for the council to discuss her situation with him.

“It’s the biggest whitewash I’ve ever seen,” he said.

“Why would I be on their case all the time and then ignore them?”

He believed that even if he hadn’t answered his phone on specific occasions, that would not justify the council failing to recognise and act on years of persistent concerns over an elderly woman’s welfare.

He has now referred his complaint to the ombudsman.

“I want them to overturn it, because it’s unjust,” he said.

A council spokesperson said: “Our sympathies remain with Mr Parkin and his family. We will, of course, cooperate with any investigation by the ombudsman, just as we did with the inquest into Rosslyn Wolff’s tragic death.”

Mrs Wolff’s inquest is currently on hold, pending a High Court decision over whether it should be held before a jury.

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