Mystery solved: Coma patient identified by New Journal as ‘quiet and reserved’ man
EXCLUSIVE: Neighbours in Queen's Crescent name man who had been unknown for a month after our appeal
26 January, 2018 — By William McLennan
Photos of the patient were released by the police
A MYSTERY coma patient who has been lying unnamed in hospital for a month has been identified by the New Journal as a “reserved” and “reclusive” man who lived alone in Queen’s Crescent.
Police had appealed for help in tracking down the man’s family, but despite his image being widely circulated had been unable to put a name to a face in the four weeks since he was rushed into University College Hospital on Boxing day, having collapsed in the street.
The New Journal has spoken to four neighbours of the man, three of which have also been in contact with police this week. They each described a middle-aged man who had shunned attention and social interaction. It is understood that his name is Phil Hazlewood.
His image was published on the front of this newspaper yesterday, 30 days after he entered hospital, in the hope somebody could help.
Police believe they now know the man’s name, having been tipped off by a New Journal reader, but are awaiting forensic confirmation before formally identifying him. They have begun a desperate search to contact his next of kin, which has so far proved fruitless.
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Tony Lawrence was on his way home last night when he saw his neighbour’s face in the paper when he popped into the nearby convenience store, Budget Beers.
He said: “He kept himself, to himself. You’d very rarely see him. I think the only time I spoke to him was the day I moved in.”
He recalled that he would avoid bustling Queen’s Crescent, opting for a quieter backstreet.
“You’d see him come and go sometimes, with a big laundry bag, but he always goes up and down the alley, never through the Crescent.”
One neighbour said that they had “jokingly called him the ghost, because you’d just never see him”. They said he spoke with a “London accent” and they believed he is in his 40s.
While he lay unnamed in hospital, questions were asked about how a man’s identity could not be known by a single soul in a connected city of nine million people. But his neighbours painted a picture of a someone who had sought out solitude.
Sue Oakes, who lives opposite, said: “He was very reserved. He led a lonely life.I’d go months without seeing him. If someone came out the front he would back in and wait for them to pass.”
She said that far from being uncaring strangers, neighbours in the block of flats looked out for one another.
“I’d say hello to all my neighbours, except for poor old Phil. My neighbour checked he was ok just before Christmas, but he didn’t want to talk and brushed her away.”
She added: “That’s London. People get lost and lose themselves in London.”
It is not known how he came to be in Euston on Boxing Day and whether he was on his way to hospital, or if it was merely a coincide he was just metres away from medical staff when he fell ill.
Ms Oakes said: “Thank goodness he was outside the hospital, otherwise he could have died in his flat and we might not have known for weeks.”
CCTV has shown the man walking northwards along Tottenham Court Road when he “suddenly collapsed” at around 5.30pm on December 26, having suffered a massive heart attack.
He has remained at the hospital in Euston Road ever since, hooked up to a life-support machine in an induced coma. Doctors said he is in a serious, but stable condition.
Unlike most patients brought through the doors of the emergency room, he was carrying no ID, bank cards or any other formal documentation.
Police were called in to help and found several scraps of paper in his pocket, with what appeared to be a handwritten list of his monthly outgoings.
It contained some clues, but lacked vital details. Among those were his visits to a foodbank and a swimming pool, where he paid concession rates.
It is believed his clothes were secondhand, having been donated to charity. Police found a name tag inside a jumper and were able to trace the previous owner, who told them he had “donated them before leaving the country”.
Police at first believed may have been homeless, but it is now known this is not the case. Homeless outreach services and charities had been asked to review images of the man.
PC Andrew Harris, who is based at the hospital, had helped to publicise the case in the past weeks, in the hope the man’s family could be brought to his bedside. “I’ve certainly never encountered it in my time, that you would have someone who is almost a complete mystery,” he said.
Detective Constable Tom Boon, who led the investigation, said that they had been “contacted by numerous members of the public who thought they knew the male” and this week made a breakthrough.
It is understood they had to wade through many mistaken tip offs before receiving helpful information.
Detective Sergeant Angie Duffy, from Camden’s missing person unit, said: “The help of the media and the public in this matter has been invaluable in helping us to identify the male.
“We await forensic confirmation but once we have this, we will release further details in the hope of identifying the male’s next of kin.”