United Kingdom

Ex-prisoner lives in derelict railway arch in Wales after turning his back on a life of crime 

A former prisoner is sleeping in a derelict railway arch as he waits to be reunited with his young daughter after turning his back on a life of crime in London.

Lee Carson, 36, has been sleeping rough in South Wales in recent months after he was evicted from rented accommodation for allegedly making threats to a council. 

He was 'in and out of prison' until he was 25 for crimes including carrying weapons, robbery and fighting, but finally went straight after he saw someone getting stabbed to death en route to a football match in 2019.

Mr Carson then found love on a mobile dating app with a girl from South Wales and moved from London, when the pair had a baby together. 

But he is currently sleeping rough under the Big Arch, a derelict Grade II-listed 19th century tunnel in Abersychan, near Pontypool.

Lee Carson lives under an arch in Abersychan, near Pontypool,surrounded by his meagre possessions

He was 'in and out of prison' until he was 25 for crimes including carrying weapons

There he waits for news of when he can finally start getting his life together

There he waits for news of when he can finally start getting his life together, while relying on the kindness of strangers who drop by with food, drink and clothing.

'I came to Wales to get away from my past,' he said. 

'I've been done for carrying weapons, robbery, stealing cars, fighting - all after falling in with the wrong people. Well, being related to some of them actually, which makes it all the harder to get away.

'But I just got tired of having to watch my back all the time, and things came to a head when I saw someone repeatedly stabbed right in front of me on the way to a local Sunday afternoon football match.

'That was in 2019 and it made me realise I had to change my ways - I'd seen too many people lose their lives or end up behind bars as a result.'

Mr Carson got a job pouring concrete in Torfaen around the same time he met a girl from the borough on a lonely hearts website.

'We got together and had a daughter. It was amazing,' he revealed.

He is currently sleeping rough under the Big Arch, a derelict Grade II-listed 19th century tunnel in Abersychan, near Pontypool after he was denied accommodation

Pictured: Inside his tent under a derelict railway arch in Abersychan, near Pontypool

'But then social services got involved, found out about my past and decided they wanted to check me over - until which time I've been told I can't stay with my two girls at their place.'

The former prisoner worked as a binman and a steel fixer until the pandemic hit, after which he had to go onto Universal Credit.

He was provided with temporarily accommodation in nearby Griffithstown at the start of this year, but claimed that the property was infested with rats and covered in black mould, making it uninhabitable.

'I raised my concerns, told them I was going to take it higher, but I got evicted,' he claimed. 'I had 24 hours to get all my stuff out of there.' 

Since taking up subsequent residence under the Big Arch, he said he's been amazed by the kindness shown towards him by the local community.

'People have been really incredible - every time I come back to my tent I find something new has been left for me,' he said. 

He finally went straight after he saw someone getting stabbed to death en route to a football game in 2019, and moved to South Wales where he poured concrete

'Even being homeless here in Wales is better than the life I left behind. They've got me enrolled on parenting courses to prove I can be a good dad.

'And that's fine because that little girl is my reason to keep fighting and being strong. She is my cub, my princess.'

He also uses what money he gets to help the 18-year-old son he has back in England. 'It's not much, but even if I can help pay his bus fare to college then that's a start,' he added.

'I lost out on so much happiness because of how I was living before. So I want to have a stronger bond with my boy too.' 

A Torfaen County Borough Council spokesman said: 'Mr Carson was provided with temporary accommodation by Torfaen Council in January.

'He was asked to leave after a number of incidents during which he was abusive and made threats to staff.

'The rats and mould were reported and both matters were dealt with promptly by the property owner.

'Mr Carson has been advised Torfaen Council will continue to work with him to find accommodation, and provide advice and support.'

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