Man found dead on Bibby Stockholm lay undiscovered for 12 hours, roommate says

<span>Photograph: Family handout/PA</span>
Photograph: Family handout/PA

The man who was found dead on the Bibby Stockholm barge after it was suspected he had killed himself lay undiscovered for up to 12 hours, his former roommate has claimed.

Speaking publicly for the first time since Leonard Farruku, 27, an asylum seeker from Albania, was found dead in a shower room on the barge last month, Yusuf Deen Kargbo, 20, urged the Home Office to stop using it to accommodate those seeking refugee status.

Kargbo, a former Commonwealth Games competitor from Sierra Leone, told the Guardian that Farruku was a “nice and kind man who always smiled and said hello”. He said he and Farruku had shared a room for about a week and a half before his death, which is being investigated by the coroner and the Home Office.

“Leonard didn’t speak a lot of English and both of us didn’t spend much time in our rooms during the day,” he said. “But he was friendly and he showed me how to hang up my towels in the shower room. I sometimes saw him watching videos on his phone. I did not know about any mental health problems he might have had.”

Farruku’s sister, Jola Dushku, 33, who lives in Lombardy, Italy, told the Guardian her brother had no known mental health problems before he was put on the barge by the Home Office.

She also paid tribute to him. “Leonard was more than a brother to me and our sister. He was a very sympathetic person, he was full of humour and above all he was very straightforward. He had lots of friends in Albania and maintained strong relationships with them. He would never speak about anyone behind their back.”

His Home Office identity card, seen by the Guardian, shows he had been granted permission to work just days before his death, due to the fact that his job, thought to be in hospitality, was on the list of shortage occupations.

Kargbo said the last time he saw him alive was when he went for his evening meal in the barge dining room. When he returned to his room after dinner and wanted to use the toilet he found the door was locked and assumed Farruku was using the bathroom so went out of the room and used another bathroom.

He then went to a different part of the barge where the intermittent wifi signal on board was known to be better and made a long call of about an hour and a half to his home country. Afterwards, he returned to his room, climbed into bed at the top of the bunk he shared with Farruku and fell asleep.

He awoke early the next morning at about 5.30am and saw that Farruku’s bed had not been slept in. He then went to the bathroom and once again found the door was locked.

“I knocked on the door and kept saying: ‘Hello, hello,’ but I got no answer,” he said. He then raised the alarm with security staff on board.

“At first they didn’t take me seriously but after I asked them again they came and had a look. When they got no reply they forced the door open and found Leonard unconscious.”

The roommate was swiftly ushered out of the room. “I had a bad feeling about this. The police kept asking me lots of questions and I wasn’t allowed back into my room even to get my clothes or documents,” he said.

He said he was offered no support from the Home Office to deal with the trauma he experienced. “Things are very bad on the barge. The biggest fear among the asylum seekers is that the Home Office will remove the barge from its mooring and we will wake up to find we are sailing away to Rwanda. For that reason many people are frightened to go to sleep at night.”

Several days after Farruku’s death, the roommate was removed from the barge as a result of intervention by the charity Care4Calais. He has now been moved to hostel accommodation in Cardiff.

Kargbo added: “I have been to see the doctor there to get help with my trauma. Another death could happen there at any time. More people will take their lives. Everyone on the barge is so isolated.

“I feel so stressed by everything that happened and my anxiety and depression have increased. A lot of the people the Home Office put on the barge are very young like me.”

Steve Smith, CEO of Care4Calais, said: “In a caring and compassionate society the trauma of experiencing the suicide of the person you have been told to share a room with would immediately trigger a package of support. Not under this government.

“We were appalled that our client spent days on the barge after the suicide, relocated to another room, without his belongings, isolated from others, and without any emotional support. Only the intervention of the legal team with which we had signed him up led to his transfer from the barge.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “This was a tragic incident, and our thoughts are with everyone affected. This is being investigated by the police and coroner. We take the welfare of those in our care very seriously, and have rigorous safeguarding processes in place.

“Any concerns raised about the service delivered on the barge are swiftly addressed through our work with the provider, and Migrant Help 24/7 is also available every day of the year.”

  • In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123, or email or Youth suicide charity Papyrus can be contacted on 0800 068 4141 or email In the US, you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 988, chat on, or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at