A homeless man suffering from throat cancer has been found dead in the doorway of a shop in Essex.
Rob O’Conner was found outside the former Argos building on Springfield Road, Chelmsford, on Friday morning.
It is understood Mr O’Conner had been living behind the shutters in the empty shop.
Police and paramedics were called out shortly after 11am today and his death is being treated as unexplained.
Aaron Smith, 27, who has also been homeless for a year, found Mr O’Conner body.
He said: ‘I was his only friend. We bed down together under the shutters. I was all he had. He was ill and had throat cancer. The bad weather didn’t help at all and it is picking us off one by one. When I found him he had one thin sleeping bag on.
‘Everyone has him wrong. He was a lovely bloke but because he couldn’t speak properly people had him wrong. He was a good and loyal friend.’
A handwritten tribute was been placed next to the nearby Halifax bank paying tribute to Mr O’Conner.
The sign read: ‘Homeless Rob died this morning, found him dead about 11am behind the shutters at Argos where he and others are living.
‘Details of his funeral will be announced at a later date or in the local paper. God bless his family at this hard time.’
Another homeless man, known as Badger, who put the sign up, said: ‘I knew him, he was an associate of mine.
‘It is a crying shame that someone should die behind the shutters. At least he found somewhere to stay – there were others he was staying with.
‘It is sad but not unexpected.’
Lewis Stimpson, who works in a nearby restaurant, said: ‘I didn’t realise there was an incident but every time I walk past there they are always there.
‘You cannot even see them, all you can see is their feet. It is not a shock to me at all. When you are homeless you have nothing to lose. It is a big problem in this city.’
Julia Rickute, a manager at a different nearby bar, added: ‘Homeless people have been sleeping there for about six months. Police have been three times in that time.
‘I believe it’s a homeless person who has sadly died. There is a gap under the shutter. Four homeless people sleep there, and I don’t know which one died, but I saw a group huddling around discussing something and I think they called the police to say their mate had died.
‘After that we saw the ambulance come. Where is there for them to go? It’s very sad.’
Rob Saggs, the executive director at homeless charity CHESS, said: “It’s devastating to hear that somebody has died on our streets in Chelmsford. I’m just devastated and quite shocked.
‘What’s really sad about it is that we have been running a winter project that somebody like this could have been accessing, where it’s warm and comfy. It’s horrendous.’
Following the death, a Chelmsford City Council spokesperson said: ‘CHESS have confirmed that the winter project has extended their service until the end of March.
‘They have 10 bed spaces at a local Church which rough sleepers can access each night. Sanctus is open for rough sleepers to get hot food and drink throughout the day.’
A spokesperson for Essex Police said: ‘Enquiries are continuing and the death is currently being treated as unexplained.;
A spokesperson for East of England Ambulance Service said: ‘We were called at 11.05am to a report of a man who was not breathing.
‘An ambulance crew attended. Sadly, the patient died at the scene.’