Police called to council hostel 151 times amid drug-dealing concerns

Abercrombie House collage

Abercrombie House, where Ken Hill was found dead in January, was subject to 151 police call-outs in two years, the Romford Recorder has found. - Credit: Google Streetview / The Hill Family

Police were called to a hostel in Harold Hill 151 times in two years, the Romford Recorder can reveal.

The figures, disclosed under Freedom of Information laws, mean officers were called to the council-run facility, on average, more than once every five days.

But Havering Council will not commit to any action, saying the high number shows it is being proactive.

The Metropolitan Police tried to withhold the call-out data, claiming it would violate the privacy of suspected criminals – but the Recorder won an appeal.

We demanded the data after a man was found dead in Abercrombie House with heroin in his system, amid ongoing concerns over drugs at the site. 

Witnesses say drugs are dealt and used at the hostel in Bridgwater Road – claims supported by a document found in the dead man’s room.

The 151 call-outs occurred between April 30, 2019, and April 30, 2021.

Abercrombie House

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Abercrombie House is used as temporary accommodation for up to 160 homeless people at a time.

In May, mum-of-two Molly Millrain told the Recorder she witnessed drug use when she was placed there for three months.

“If you voluntarily had your child in an environment like that, they would be taken away from you by social services,” she said.

Abercrombie House

Former residents of Abercrombie House, in Harold Hill, said they had witnessed drugs being dealt and used. - Credit: Steve Poston

Another woman, placed there for nine months with her young son, described it as “uninhabitable”.

“I nearly had a nervous breakdown,” she said, asking not to be named.

“There was lots of addicts in there. There was a man who used to stand by the fire exit at the back. He was a shotter (drug dealer), selling crack and heroin.

“People would be coming up to him and putting money in his pockets, doing the handshakes. There was no secrecy around it.

“It should have been shut down. But they just kept telling me I was lucky to be in there because the other one in Romford was even worse.”

“Wholly unacceptable”

In May, the Recorder interviewed relatives of Ken Hill, 45, who was found dead at Abercrombie House in January.

Placed in the facility after a relationship breakdown and mental health crisis, he had no history of intravenous drug use, relatives said.

But when brother Rob and sister-in-law Katie went to collect Ken's belongings, they found his room strewn with needles.

Needles at Abercrombie House

When Rob and Katie Hill attended Abercrombie House to collect Ken's belongings, they found his room strewn with needles. They gathered them in safe boxes, which they said were available at the hostel, and handed them in to police. - Credit: The Hill Family

Heroin was found in Ken’s system.

The family raised concerns that vulnerable people were not being safeguarded or monitored.

Ken had begun decomposing by the time he was found.

Katie said the figures uncovered by the Recorder were “wholly unacceptable” and called for an independent investigation by a barrister.

“This accommodation needs cleaning up immediately to ensure vulnerable adults and children are safeguarded,” she said.

Ken Hill

Ken Hill, a keen golfer seen here after winning a tournament, was housed in Abercrombie House after a mental health crisis. Months later, he was found decomposing with heroin in his system. - Credit: The Hill Family

Persistent Problem

In Ken's room, Katie and Rob found a July 2019 Met Police notice saying the force was “aware that drug dealing and consumption may be taking place in Abercrombie House”.

Katie said the high volume of call-outs since then showed not enough was being done.

“Lessons must be learned and those responsible must take accountability, particularly when people lose their life or are exposed to risk of harm in accommodation which should be safe,” she said.

In May, independent councillor Bob Perry called for an investigation into the hostel.

He said this week that he had been ignored.

“I still insist that investigation should go ahead,” he said.

Abercrombie House Met Police notice

Rob and Katie Hill found a July 2019 Met Police notice in Ken's room at Abercrombie House, saying the force was aware of alleged drug-dealing on the council premises. - Credit: The Hill Family

The Authorities

The Met said: “We are aware of concerns around this location and our safer neighbourhood teams are working closely with the local authority to address the issues raised.

“In May, we held a day of action at key locations in Havering which resulted in a number of arrests and the seizure of a quantity of drugs.

“Officers also spoke to residents to listen to their concerns and encourage them to come forward if they have information about drug-related crime.”

Havering Council said: “The number of calls to the police reflects our strong working partnership and shows how we always put the safety of our residents first.”

It added: “Many of these residents come to us at a time of crisis and have complex needs. Therefore we are often in touch with the police for a large variety of reasons.”

The council also said the hostel was a base for housing staff, who might have called police about other locations.

The Met urged anyone with information about a person or place they believe is being used to deal drugs to call police or, Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

For more, read:

Family seeks answers as police probe dad's death in council-run hostel

Mum-of-two's long-term home 'nightmare' amid housing crisis