Letchworth hoarder given two-week eviction reprieve to clean up his house

Wilfred James

Wilfred James - Credit: Archant

A judge has given a hoarder – who was due to be evicted today – two weeks to clean up his house.

Jacqui and Wilfred went on holiday to Germany in 2004, shortly before she died

Jacqui and Wilfred went on holiday to Germany in 2004, shortly before she died - Credit: Archant

Tenant Wilfred James has lived in his flat in Jarden, Letchworth, since 1965 and was due to be evicted by landlord North Hertfordshire Homes because of the fire risk posed by his collecting.

On Tuesday, two days before he was due to face eviction, the 79-year-old was handed a two-week reprieve by a judge at Luton County Court.

Social services has organised professional cleaners to help Mr James remove items from the flat from next week, before a judge will make a decision on whether to uphold an eviction order passed at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court in July.

Mr James admits that his collecting has become a problem since his partner of 31 years, Jacqui Surtees, died from breast cancer in February 2005.

Mr James stores books and shoes in his bedroom

Mr James stores books and shoes in his bedroom - Credit: Archant

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He said: “I started getting into computers after Jacqui died to keep my mind off things and it helped keep me sane.

“I know I have a problem but I would like to be given time to get rid of my things. Since Jacqui died I have nothing in my life apart from my things and if they are taken away from me I don’t know what I will do.

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“It’s a bit hypocritical because if you are rich and you have lots of things you are called a collector but if you are poor you are called a hoarder.

“I will try and co-operate with the cleaners as much as I can but I cannot say what I will want to keep and what I won’t until I see it. If something is removed that I want to keep I will treat it as theft.”

Mr James' kitchen

Mr James' kitchen - Credit: Archant

Even if the flat is cleared a spokesman for NHH confirmed that they will pursue an eviction.

Victoria Hisgrove, director of operations at the housing association, said: “For a long period of time we have offered assistance and support to Mr James. We have a duty of care to him, his neighbours and our staff.

“Based on Mr James past non-compliance with court decisions, his total refusal to accept expert advice, the likelihood of future fire risk and his threatening behaviour toward our staff, we believe Mr James has left us no option but to pursue an eviction.”

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