Devastated mother reveals how blundering council contractor got rid of everything she owned during work on her house

15 September 2023, 09:30 | Updated: 15 September 2023, 09:44

The house, before and after the bungled clearance, and Shania (L) and Keisha (R)
The house, before and after the bungled clearance, and Shania (L) and Keisha (R). Picture: LBC
Connor Hand

By Connor Hand

A mother-of-two has told LBC that her life has been “destroyed” after all of her possessions were mistakenly disposed of by a council contractor.

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Keisha McCalla and her two children, Shania and Leren, now aged 14 and 5, lost thousands of pounds’ worth of clothing, furniture, toys and electronics, as well as irreplaceable family scrapbooks, packed with photos of her young children, following a mistake by the removal company.

Welwyn and Hatfield Council were first contacted by Ms McCalla after she discovered that the walls of her property were crumbling, with the council’s contractor, Mears, then arranging for remedial work to take place in July 2022.

Council contractor gets rid of mother's possessions

In the meantime, Keisha agreed to move out of the property whilst work was carried out, as both her and her daughter suffer from asthma.

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Keisha (r) moved out of the flat while the work was carried out, and lost thousands of pounds of belongings
Keisha (r) moved out of the flat while the work was carried out, and lost thousands of pounds of belongings. Picture: LBC

Upon returning home, however, a subcontractor broke the news to Keisha that instead of rubbish being removed from the property, her possessions had been cleared out, leaving her house totally empty.

“I arrived home and saw the subcontractor was upset, so I asked what the matter was. He responded: ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, Keisha, but instead of them removing the rubbish, they’ve removed everything inside your house’. For a split second I thought he must be joking but on entering it was true.”

A bedroom in the house before the renovation work
A bedroom in the house before the renovation work. Picture: LBC

“At that instance it felt as though my whole life had been taken. My daughter was inconsolable… I was utterly distressed but had to try to appear okay for my babies.”

Despite attempting to retrieve them, the only items that could be saved was a now-broken television, one trainer, a football boot, an ankle boot and Tupperware containers, a long decorative pillow and a single quilt – none of which could be used again.

More than a year down the line, Keisha and her family are yet to receive compensation.

All of their belongings were piled up and then later disposed of
All of their belongings were piled up and then later disposed of. Picture: LBC

Aside from the financial impact, the emotional scars have left Keisha and her family unable to return to their council home. Instead, they have divided their time between living with her mother and even, at points, resorting to staying in the back of her car.

Elaborating on the emotional challenges her children are facing, 31-year-old Keisha told LBC: “My daughter, Shania, is constantly upset and has also had to see her doctor. At 14, she now sleeps with me on the floor because she doesn’t want to be alone, and is far more withdrawn and agitated.

“My son’s behaviour has definitely changed beyond belief. He is lashing out, anxious, crying, not sleeping and having nightmares. He’s constantly asking whether the ‘bad men are coming’, the ones that took all of his things.

“We are unable to live in the place which was going to be our new home.”

On her own struggles, she added: “This has destroyed my life. I have been off work since July and have had to seek counselling and medication (the anti-depressant, Citalopram).

“I am suffering from severe anxiety, panic attacks and depression… I constantly feel down as nearly everything I have ever had in my thirty years has gone.”

Keisha also believes that the council have also been “blasé” about her situation, saying she was “absolutely infuriated and appalled with how the council and Mears have dealt with this. They have shown incompetence throughout, not logging the correct information on the system, sending me emails that were intended for human resources, being deceitful, and lacking empathy towards us as a family.

In response to Keisha’s citation, a spokesperson for Welwyn and Hatfield said “The contractor involved has accepted responsibility for this incident.

“We did everything that we could to support Ms McCalla following the incident, including putting Ms McCalla in touch with the people handling her case at the contractors.

“While it would not be appropriate for us to comment further on an ongoing legal matter, we do hope that a satisfactory resolution can be found to this case as soon as possible.”

The council’s contractor, Mears, also responded to LBC’s request for a statement, saying they were “aware of Ms McCalla’s claim relating to the removal of items from her property by a subcontractor. Our claims handlers are in direct contact with Ms McCalla to try and resolve her complaint as swiftly as possible.”