Mum of rough sleeper found dead in Ilford: ‘he had a good heart’

The family of a rough sleeper who died lying on an pavement say he was a man with a “good heart” who treated homelessness as a “way of life”.

Leonard Hiller was found dead two days after Christmas outside the former Ilford Baths, High Road, Ilford.

It was only last week, three days before Mr Hiller would have turned 46, that his family was tracked down and told of his death.

Speaking to the Recorder, his grief-stricken mother Glenda Hiller, sister Debbie Wilding and niece Kia Hiller paid tribute to a man who had lived a life on the streets for 20 years.

Mrs Wilding, 44, said: “We want people to know he does have a family and he will have the best funeral service you can ever have.”

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Fighting back tears, 63-year-old Mrs Hiller spoke of last seeing her son two years ago on the streets, giving money to him via someone else so he did not think he was getting handouts from his mum.

She said: “He got into drinking and drugs and he completely changed to a different person.

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“But he had a good heart. If he saw an old lady with a heavy bag, he would help her. He wasn’t nasty in any way.

“We put him in shelters but he didn’t want to do that. He would rather have a can of Special Brew or White Lightning and be on the streets.”

She added: “I honestly thought he had 101 lives. He was always fighting.”

Leonard, who was found dead at 11am on December 27, leaves behind two daughters and one son and a brother, David, aged 42. He died of “natural causes”.

He grew up in Stanfield Road, Dagenham and was taught at Richard Alibon Primary School and Eastbrook Comprehensive School, both in Dagenham. His family moved to Clacton, Essex, two years ago.

Sister Mrs Wilding, 44, said: “It was a way of life for him living on the streets. He had no bills to worry about. He didn’t like the four walls. He preferred to be on the streets wandering.”

The funeral service will be held at 2.40pm on January 30 at Weeley Crematorium, Colchester Road, Weeley, Essex.

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