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Evicted tenants name surviving twin after ‘angel’ Council officer

A couple who lost one of their twins after being unlawfully evicted from their home have described Waltham Forest Council’s Housing Officer, who helped them through the trauma, as ‘an angel’, even naming their surviving new-born after her.

Elizabeth Eroghen, 29, and her partner, George Ebong Akpan, 56, were twice unlawfully evicted by their landlords despite Elizabeth being heavily pregnant with twins. Elizabeth subsequently went into labour two months before her due date and ended up spending five days in hospital, tragically losing one of her babies.

The callousness of the landlords led to a rare prosecution being brought by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) based on evidence obtained by Waltham Forest Council and the local police.

On 28 May, landlady Ogechi Anyanwu, 40, of Manford Court, Chigwell, and her niece Chanel Anyanwu, 22, of Cann Hall Road, Leytonstone, were found guilty of unlawful eviction and harassment under Section 1 of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 at Stratford Magistrates Court.

The pair were sentenced on 14 June and both women were given 80 hours supervised community service and ordered to pay £250 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

Councillor Khevyn Limbajee, Waltham Forest Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, said, “This is a good example of partnership working between the Council and the police and sends a strong message to other landlords who believe that simply disregarding something as binding as an Assured Shorthold Tenancy is acceptable. Tenants should feel secure in their own home and not be made to suffer this sort of injustice.”

The hard work and diligence of Waltham Forest Council’s Tenancy Relations Officer, Beverley Holdsworth, and her close work with the police saw the two authorities visit the address on 30 September last year and employ locksmiths to gain entry and change the locks.

This allowed the tenants, who had rented a first floor bedroom for four months, to re-enter the property. The landlady and her niece agreed to return to the address to meet police whereupon they were arrested.

The property owner, Ogechi Anyanwu, denied that the couple had been unlawfully evicted three days earlier, despite the locks being changed without their knowledge, trespassing in their room and removing their belongings with no notice.

Chanel Anyanwu, who also resided in the shared property, claimed to police that she had given the couple a valid notice to quit, suggesting they were lodgers, but during the hearing these claims were found to be false and other paperwork was discovered to be lacking. The tenants had suffered an earlier unlawful eviction on 15 September.

“Elizabeth and George were treated appallingly,” said Beverley. “Elizabeth suffers with diabetes and was heavily pregnant when the landlords just decided to turf them out on the street.

“I find it very difficult to get into the heads of people like the Anyanwus. Elizabeth and George lost a lot of possessions in the turmoil and of course the tragedy of losing one of their babies was just heart-breaking.

“I was extremely moved and honoured that they named their baby after me. You can’t imagine how touching it is. I was just doing my job and my best to help people who really were suffering an injustice.

“It is reassuring to know that we can work with the police and the CPS to bring these sorts of successful prosecutions and that the courts will punish landlords who break the law. I know Elizabeth and George are also pursuing a civil case and I wish them luck with that too.

“I’m proud to have been of some help in this matter and I think it highlights the need for authorities like the Council to hold landlords to account. Their actions have very real impacts on the lives of people who simply deserve to be treated fairly and respectfully.”

Elizabeth said, “It was a nightmare and looking back I don’t know how we got through it. Beverley was like an angel and went well beyond the call of duty in helping us with our situation.

“It’s at times of trouble and stress that you realise what people are really like and the true meaning of good and bad. Beverley was there for us at a time when we really needed help and support and obviously we went through very dark times.

“However, it was also a time when my beautiful daughter was born, so there was light too and it seemed appropriate to name her after Beverley given what she has done for us.”

Little Beverley is doing fine and Elizabeth and George are now settled in a home in Forest Gate.

Photos: Ogechi Anyanwu and her niece Chanel Anyanwu were found guilty of unlawful eviction and harassment.

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