A HOMELESS man, who died alone in his tent yards from a riverbank footpath, could only be identified by his DNA.

It was only the smell of Cardon Banfield's decomposing body which led to him being found after a hotel customer raised the alarm.

Now concerns have been raised about the plight of rough sleepers.

Mr Banfield of no fixed abode was found dead in his tent near Worcestershire County Cricket Club by a club steward on July 5.

An inquest into the 74-year-old’s death was held at Worcestershire Coroner’s Court in Stourport on Monday.

The tent had been pitched by a footpath running alongside the river and Severn Bridge car park.

Mr Banfield, who had no known family, was found by Anthony Harris, a steward, who had been alerted to a smell coming from a tent in some shrubbery near the river Severn.

Mr Banfield had no next of kin.

Worcestershire coroner Geraint Williams said Mr Banfield’s body was so badly decomposed it was impossible to identify him initially or ascertain a medical cause of death.

DNA analysis was later able to confirm that the body was that of Mr Banfield ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’.

Mr Harris was aware there had been a number of tents but they had all gone except one, contacting a colleague because he believed there was a body inside.

The coroner, Geraint Williams said: “They made their way to the tent and discovered a decomposed body contained therein."

The police were summoned and attended with paramedics on July 5. Mr Williams said some of the personal possessions found in the tent indicated that the body was that of Cardon Banfield but it took a DNA test for this to be confirmed.

Mr Banfield was born on June 11, 1942 in Saint Vincent in the Caribbean.

Mr Williams said: “Some time before July 5 Mr Banfield died in a tent adjacent to the Worcester cricket club. I don’t have a cause of death or how death occurred. I reach a conclusion in open form.”

Horrified campaigners have raised concerns about the plight of rough sleepers.

Former rough sleeper and campaigner Hugo Sugg, aged 26, of Worcester, who knew Mr Banfield from the city's YMCA described him as ‘chatty and talkative’ and someone who had led an interesting life and was 'up-beat' though sometimes his behaviour could be 'challenging'.

He said: “I think it’s horrific, absolutely horrific for somebody to be found like that and we can’t even say how he died.

"This death highlights the severity of the issue of rough sleeping and highlights the loneliness.

“The loneliness is immense. The fact that nobody knew about him, no-one saw him, no-one checked on him, no-one went ‘where’s Cardon?’”

Mr Sugg said he believed that the outreach service was now a 'light touch' and more centred on prevention rather than building a relationship with rough sleepers.

The outreach service was previously run by St Paul's Hostel but the contract was taken over by CCP, the Worcestershire Homelessness Prevention service, at the end of March.

Mr Sugg said: “This is a failure in the system. Someone has died on our streets in a tent and got to the point of decomposing before someone found him.

“The issue for me isn’t necessarily the death but the fact that he was there so long and no alarm bells rang.”

Ben Bradley, Worcester City Council’s community partnerships co-ordinator, said: “We were shocked to hear about the death of Mr Banfield. We were particular saddened to learn that he died alone, without anyone beside him.

"This tragic case shows the importance of the commitment we and our partners have to providing help and support to the most vulnerable in our society.”

Jonathan Sutton, chief executive of St Paul's Hostel, said:

"The circumstances of this man's death are immensely sad. Apportioning blame for the death gets us nowhere very fast and shouting for more resources isn't likely to happen so we must think harder about making best use of what we have.

"I'm looking forward to the city homeless forum where leaders get together to coordinate - not duplicate - redesign and improve what's left of the services in the city for the vulnerable."

The death of Mr Banfield did not directly lead to a review of services but a city council spokesperson said it consistently reviews and monitors homeless provision in Worcester. She added: "Sadly, Mr Banfield was not known to the city council as he never approached us for housing support – nor was he known to the police.

“However Mr Banfield did have limited contact with Maggs Day Centre."

During the coldest winter months, Worcester City Council operates a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) along with our partners CCP and Maggs Day Centre.

When the weather is forecast to fall below zero degrees (centigrade) for three consecutive nights, emergency accommodation is opened to reduce the risk of serious harm or death to those who sleep rough.

SWEP was triggered three times last winter, and in Worcester 22 individuals accessed it for a total of 114 individual stays.

In Worcester SWEP operates alongside the year-round No Second Night Out (NSNO) protocol so anyone newly arrived on the street can get the support and help they need to prevent a second night sleeping rough, and can access long-term accommodation.

Worcester City Council is consulting on the Worcestershire Strategic Housing Partnership Plan, along with all district councils in the county.

If members of the general public are concerned about someone sleeping rough then they can report them via Streetlink – call 0300 500 0914 or log on to www.streetlink.org.uk. A support worker will attend the reported spot within 24 hours of referral.