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Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 20:55 GMT
Friends of a rough sleeper

A disabled young man who died sleeping rough on the streets of London is the focus of BBC2 series Who killed Mark Faulkner?

In the second of three special reports from the series, Bob Boyton looks at Mark's life in London and the people who knew him there.

Mark Faulkner had never been to London before he ended up sleeping on its streets.

He told the BBC: "It's true what people said - it's totally different from any other city or town I've been to.

"It's more violent than any other city I've been to, there's more drugs, there's more of everything."

Unlike Mark, many of the young rough sleepers in London's West End have had little in the way of family.

lisa
Lisa had little choice but to leave home
Lisa, a heroin user, is 19 years old, and has the innocent face of a Victorian waif and stray.

She finally abandoned "home" in Norwich aged 13.

She says plaintively: "My mum was a heroin addict, my dad was a heroin addict and an alcoholic - he's dead now."

But despite the differences in upbringing, it's not hard to see why Mark, a failure at school and in the eyes of his family, should feel a kinship with others on the streets.

Sense of community

In the words of a homeless advice worker at The London Connection, who knew Mark: "For young people who have not experienced a strong sense of family or community, the streets are addictive because there's an extremely strong sense of community."

In a community where death at an early age is commonplace and nicknames and disguises are used as frequently as real names, Mark seems to stand out as being remembered by a lot of people.


Mark's friend Titich remembers him fondly

His friend Titch, a streetwise hustler, remembers him as a bisexual friend who did what survival required.

This on occasion involved selling sex, sometimes for as little as a bed for the night, and sometimes receiving abuse as part of the price.

Mark is remembered fondly if despairingly in Brighton by ageing punk girl Kestrel as "a bit of a pillock".

Nicknamed for her favourite super strength lager and Mark's guardian angel of sorts, Kestrel recalls dragging him out of an amusement arcade on giro day with his last tenner intact so that he could buy the amphetamines he had promised her.

Fear of dying

As fruit machines continued to dominate Mark's life so did his epilepsy.

Averse to taking medication, Mark's fear of dying on his own led him to make two half-hearted attempts to get a two-bedroom Brighton council flat so that he could live with a carer - although on neither occasion did he stay around long enough to follow through.

Susan, from Brighton's First Base Centre, and Keith Miel, an evangelical ex street-sleeper who put Mark up for a few nights both testify to Mark's restlessness.

They believe he was guarding a secret that he felt he could hide as long as he kept moving.

The chaos and excesses of London's street life must have seemed ideal camouflage.

As Mark said: "When I leave I keep saying I'm not coming back here but I always do for some reason."

The second part of Who Killed Mark Faulkner? will be screened on BBC2 at 2320GMT on Tuesday 5 December.

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04 Dec 00 | UK
Death of a rough sleeper
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