Oldham couple whose son died want answers over mould
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Oldham couple whose son died want answers over mould

Jul 21, 2023

A couple who warned a landlord that the mould in their home was deadly before their son died have said they want his inquest to find out why their pleas for help were ignored before his death.

Luke Brooks, 27, struggled with pneumonia and respiratory problems prior to his death in October 2022.

Jimmy and Patsy Brooks believe damp and mould in their home led to his issues.

They hope his inquest will find out why, despite their warnings and requests, the house was not repaired.

The family lived in the privately-rented property on Huxley Street for nine years, but said the problems began almost as soon as they moved in.

They said leaks, from rainwater through the roof or their own shower, turned into mould, the boiler was broken, gas was not connected and the house felt cold, even in spring.

"It's freezing in this house at night, no insulation whatsoever," Mrs Brooks said.

"It's like a wound that isn't healing."

Mr Brooks said they tried to treat the mould themselves and complained to both their landlord and Oldham Council many times, which led to repeated visits from environmental health officers.

He said they "shouted from the top of the mountain", but their landlord would not "put his hands in his pockets to do any repairs".

The BBC has approached the family's landlord for comment.

When the BBC visited the property in May 2023, there was mould around window frames and a hole in the ceiling where water had leaked between floors.

The family also shared videos and photos, which showed large, blackened mould patches on walls and ceilings and water running down internal walls as it rained.

The couple said they "begged" their landlord to make repairs.

"We're not in the 18th Century, we're in the 21st Century," Mrs Brooks said.

"This should not be happening.

"It should never have happened to my boy."

She said the week Luke died, he complained to her of chest pains.

She said after calling NHS 111 and being told it was probably a viral infection, Luke took paracetamol and ibuprofen and stayed in his bed.

"Two days later he was gone," she said.

"We tried to resuscitate him.

"We couldn't fetch him back."

She said the couple had been crushed by the loss of the son, who she said was "our best mate".

"He had plans," she said.

"He's never going to experience love. He's not going to have children."

Since Luke's death, the couple have moved to a new home, provided by Oldham Council, and said they felt healthier and were sleeping better.

However, they added that they felt they did everything in their power to fix the mould in their property and wanted Luke's inquest to find out if their landlord and other agencies had also done everything they should have.

The hearing, which is due to open later and will hear five days of evidence, will be overseen by Manchester North senior coroner Joanne Kearsley.

Ms Kearsley also oversaw the inquest into toddler Awaab Ishak's death, which also heard about how his family had been living in a mould-infested home.

She concluded that he died from a respiratory condition caused by exposure to mould in his home, a result which sent ripples across the housing industry and led the government to introduce tougher legislation on social landlords.

Oldham councillor Elaine Taylor said the authority's "thoughts go out to Luke's family and friends during this time".

She added that the council would await the coroner's findings before commenting further.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities representative said their thoughts were also with Luke's parents "at this very difficult time".

"We extend our deepest condolences to them and to all who knew and loved Luke," they said.

They added that "given the ongoing investigations into Luke's death", the department was "unable to comment further at this time".

By Fiona Trott, BBC North of England Correspondent

At Awaab Ishak's inquest last year, Coroner Joanne Kearsley posed a question: "How in the UK in 2020 does a two-year-old child die as a result of exposure to mould?"

It struck a chord. Politicians called for urgent change in the housing sector and tenants who felt ignored suddenly felt empowered.

Nine months on, a family say they believe their son died in the same circumstances and the same coroner is holding another inquest in the same court.

Living conditions in modern Britain are being brought into the spotlight once again. So what has changed?

Unlike Awaab's parents, the Brooks family were renting from a private landlord.

The government says updated quality and safety standards for social housing will be introduced into the private sector for the first time and it is also creating a new ombudsman service for private tenants.

Luke's mum Patsy says it is taking too long.

The family were living in the house where Luke died until July and were worn down by complaining.

The inquest will look at the facts - what action the family took, what action the landlord took and the role of any other authorities involved.

Jimmy and Patsy hope those facts will help them come to terms with their loss and lead to reform.

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