Inquest hears that 67-year-old pensioner died from carbon monoxide poisoning after she used charcoal to heat her home and cook food after her electricity and gas were turned off.

  • Helen Opoku had all her electricity cut before her death in Redbridge, Apil 
  • After a car accident, the 67-year old pensioner was taken to hospital in January 
  • She was identified as a vulnerable individual and was assigned a social worker
  • Three months later, however, Ms. Opoku was discovered dead in her apartment. 

An inquest found that a pensioner, who was vulnerable, died from carbon monoxide poisoning. She burned charcoal to heat her home after gas and electricity were cut off.

Helena Opoku, aged 67, died three months after Redbridge Council received a notification of self-neglect.

Mrs Opoku spent one week in hospital after being admitted as an inpatient following a January car accident.

She was flagged as a vulnerable adult by staff during this time. However, social services did not assess the risk she posed to her home or herself after her discharge on January 14.

Mrs Opoku returned home to discover that the electricity and gas were off. She used charcoal to heat and cook her food instead.

The post-mortem revealed that Mrs Opoku had died from poisonous carbon monoxide gas inhalation. This was caused by charcoal braziers burning in her poorly ventilated house.

Helena Opoku, 67, died on April 4, 2021, three months after an alert of self-neglect was made to Redbridge Council's social services, pictured Redbridge Council headquarters

Helena Opoku (67) died on April 4, 2021. This was three months after an alert for self-neglect was sent to Redbridge Council’s social service, pictured Redbridge Council headquarters

Her inquest heard Mr Opoku was using charcoal to heat her home after her electricity was cut off, her inquest heard (file photograph)

Her inquest found that Mr Opoku used charcoal to heat his home after her electricity was cut off. File photograph

Graeme Irvine, senior coroner for East London, confirmed that Mrs Opoku had not been assigned a social worker by the social services until April 1st.

Coroner Irvine stated Mrs Opoku died in the midst of waiting for the social worker.

After the conclusion to the inquest, the Coroner Irvine sent a “report for future deaths” to Redbridge Council.

He blasted council members for their wrongdoings in the report by saying that: ‘During an inquest, the evidence revealed matters giving cause to concern. If nothing is done, future deaths are possible, according to my opinion.

“During January to March 2021, the London Borough Redbridge social services adult care team in Cranbrook & Loxford were unable properly investigate all but the most urgent safeguarding referrals.

“The team was unable, during the same period to appoint social worker to vulnerable persons within a reasonable amount of time or to conduct assessments of the suitability to the homes of vulnerable residents.

‘I believe action should be taken to prevent future death and I believe that you have the power to do this.

The Coroner Irvine report is due back to the council’s social service team by December 8. They must respond by December 8th.