INTRUDERS have converted a scandal-hit former care home in South Tyneside into a drug and alcohol den.
After breaking in through the roof at St Michael’s View, in Westoe, South Shields, the trespassers barricaded themselves in one of the rooms and taped off the windows to block out the light.
When the building’s owners uncovered the den after the intruders fled they discovered a circle of chairs had been set up in the middle of the room, with a pipe, tin foil, plastic bottles and empty cans of alcohol scattered on the floor.
After leaving the building, the intruders even took some chairs and other furniture – using them to set up another den in undergrowth at the town’s Mowbray Park.
The building is owned by Brown Letting Agency, South Shields, and its future is currently uncertain.
There is an application to South Tyneside Council to convert it into a house of multiple occupation.
One of the firm’s bosses, Kerry Brown, believes the break-in re-enforces the need for the former care home’s future to be secured.
She said: “It appears these intruders climbed onto the roof and stripped off lead and got inside the internal courtyards. They broke one of the doors and barricaded themselves in a room.
“It was pitch black. They’d put tape all around the curtains to block out the light. There were bottles of water, foil and cans of lager on the floor. We didn’t find any needles, but it seemed pretty clear what was going on.
“We sought help from the police, and we were advised to switch off all the electricity as a deterrent from them going back in there. My fear now is that they could go back and use candles for the light, which would create a real safety threat.
“We need the future of the building to be secured as soon as possible.”
A Northumbria Police crime prevention officer has visited the property, which is boarded up, and passed on security advice to the agency.
A police spokesman said: “We’re aware derelict buildings can often attract intruders and work closely with the local community and our partners to prevent this from happening.
“Patrols have been stepped up around the care home and this will continue. We always encourage any residents or anyone concerned to come forward and discuss their concerns with us.”
The complex, which closed as a care home in October, 2013, was the centre of a long-running police investigation after the death of 80-year-old resident Joyce Wordingham in February 2010.
Officers also investigated the deaths of 15 other residents at the home, which was under the management of the now-defunct Southern Cross at the time. Care staff were prosecuted and others were made the subject of professional disciplinary measures.