Star of Channel 4's Skint found dead in shed where he slept rough

Tragic star of Channel 4 documentary Skint was found dead in shed where he was sleeping rough after taking lethal cocktail of drugs, inquest hears – as family pay tribute to ‘loveable rogue’

  • Father-of-two, 45, was seen around Grimsby with pet ferret Jet on his shoulder
  • The inquest heard Mr Finn had a turbulent family life but was a ‘loveable rogue’ 

The star of a controversial Channel 4 documentary was found dead in a shed where he had been sleeping rough after taking a lethal cocktail of drugs, an inquest heard.

Richard Finn, known as ‘Little Richard’ or ‘Finny’, died in a resident’s shed on Marlborough Close in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, in September 2020.

The 45-year-old had been sheltering in the shed at the time of his death, having been homeless for a year.

A toxicology report found Mr Finn, who had a ‘long and difficult history of drug abuse’, had a number of drugs in his system at the time of his death. 

At an inquest led by coroner Jane Eatock at Cleethorpes Town Hall on Tuesday, his mother Linda Ward paid tribute to her son who she described as a ‘loveable rogue’. 

Richard Finn, 45, who starred in the controversial Channel 4 show Skint, was discovered dead in a shed in September 2020

Mr Finn’s family described him as a ‘loveable rogue’ who will ‘never be forgotten’

Mr Finn was often spotted around the town of Grimsby, where he grew up, with his pet ferret Jet on his shoulder.

The inquest heard from Mr Finn’s mother, who told how he went into care at a young age before moving back in with his family.

Describing his childhood, she said: ‘Richard and his siblings witnessed his dad drink a lot of alcohol which no doubt rubbed off on them, I think this is one reason Richard was a big drinker himself.

‘He was a sociable young boy who had many friends. He would often go out first thing in a morning and only come back home when it was time to eat.

‘He was never one for school and I don’t think he was there as much as we thought he was.

‘He left Phoenix House Academy in 1994 and got a job at Cherry Valley, which he loved. However, he couldn’t hold it down for long and he never really had a job after that.’

Shortly after, Mr Finn started his first serous relationship with a woman who had three sons that he thought the world of.

But it was at this time that Mr Finn’s drink and drug problem began to get worse and she left him after around five years together, the inquest heard.

Mr Finn starred in the controversial Channel 4 show Skint (pictured here) which was set in Grimsby

He would go on to have other long term relationships fathering two children in the process, daughters Sky and Blossom.

Mr Finn also had a son named Leo who was stillbirth, and whose grave he often visited.

His mother told the inquest that his was the only time Mr Finn showed his ‘true emotions’.

In his adult life, he had many friends and could often be seen walking the streets of Grimsby with pet ferret Jet on his shoulder.

But the inquest heard how his drinking and drug taking became habitual, leading to a number of incidents where he would become argumentative with his family, sometimes damaging their property.

Regardless, Ms Ward always forgave her son, who she described as a very thoughtful man.

In a statement read out at the inquest, she said: ‘He would often pop and see me and bring me little ornaments that made him think of me. I still have some up around the house to this day. He was a loveable rogue.’

She added: ‘It was a big shock when I was told the news about his death. It was so unexpected and I was so upset because he only got to live to 45, but he will never be forgotten.

For her and other family members, the inquest acted as a form of closure to Mr Finn’s life.

Mr Finn rose to fame on the hit Channel 4 show Skint, which took a deep dive into some of the country’s most deprived communities.

In 2014, the spotlight was shone on Grimsby to an audience of over one million people.

However, it proved controversial with some viewers and local residents hitting at how participants were portrayed, as critics branded it ‘poverty porn’.

It followed the lives of a number of East Marsh residents who soon became household names like Richard, ‘Pez’ and Kayleigh. 

As a result, Mr Finn became even more well known around town, but that fame would be short lived.

The inquest heard he was found by a homeowner in a shed on Marlborough Close, Grimsby, where it’s believed he’d been staying on and off for the previous year.

The man had gone out to buy some milk and was going to get his mobility scooter, which was kept in the shed, when he found him.

Emergency services were immediately called to the scene and CPR was carried out for the next 20 minutes, but it was unsuccessful.

Mr Finn was pronounced dead at 2.14pm on September 24, 2020.

A range of evidence was heard, including statements from local mental health services and substance abuse charities, detailing how Mr Finn had approached them for help but hadn’t followed up with any appointments.

Following his death, a toxicology test and post mortem were carried out by the Home Office. They found a number of drugs in Richard’s body, all of which are used to help calm people down by lowering their heart rate.

It is believed a number of these drugs contributed to his death.

In conclusion, Ms Eatock said: ‘Richard had a long and difficult history of drug abuse and was close to his family, although as a child he moved away, he returned. They had done their best to support him, but his life style made things very difficult.

‘Because of his drinking and drugs, It seems his friends all revolved around these activities, making it difficult for him to break out of there.’

She ruled intoxication of drugs as the cause of death adding: ‘He was larger than life with a big personality.

‘He was well known on the streets of Grimsby for his appearance on Skint and was a loveable rogue. He wasn’t all bad and had a good relationship with his mum, you have to remember the good times you had with him.’

Skint: Channel 4’s controversial documentary set in one of Britain’s most deprived areas branded ‘poverty porn’ by critics 

Channel 4’s documentary series Skint aired in the UK from May 2013 to April 2015.

Its second series was set in East Marsh in Grimsby, one of Britain’s most deprived areas and once the biggest fishing port in the world.

But since the collapse of the industry, the area has been plunged into unemployment, and the documentary claimed to follow the lives of fishermen out of work after a lifetime at sea, and people doing ‘whatever they can to make ends meet’.

Among its cast of characters included a jobless drug-addicted couple who were shown shoplifting and trying to sell their furniture after they discovered their benefits would not be paid because they missed an appointment at the Job Centre.

Channel 4’s documentary series Skint aired in the UK from May 2013 to April 2015. It also followed the story of former trawlerman Jeff, his partner Becky and their family

Channel 4 was accused of glorifying ‘shoplifters and drug addicts’ in its controversial series Skint. One episode saw one contributor stealing flowers for a funeral to order

Another woman, called Kayleigh, claimed to have witnessed domestic violence as a child and worked as a prostitute.

The show attracted criticism, with MPs accusing Channel 4 of ‘poverty tourism’ and ‘concentrating hatred on the least well-educated’ and the ‘most deprived’.

But Reverend John Ellis, who featured in the series and ran the Shalom youth project on the East Marsh estate in Grimsby, defended the documentary.

‘We were very happy with the programme and the way we were portrayed in it. We looked at it very carefully before we decided to take part,’ he told Christian Today.

Rev Ellis described the ‘poverty porn’ label as ‘nonsense’ and denied that the programme could be seen as entertainment at other people’s expense.

Meanwhile, her boyfriend Will was shown donning a high-vis jacket and daubing himself with paint in order to convince shop staff he had just finished work, before heading off out, apprently to shoplift

It also features Rev John Ellis, who has run the Shalom youth project on the East Marsh estate in Grimsby since 1972, and has defended the documentary

‘We have 45 per cent child poverty, 30 per cent pensioner poverty and 44 per cent lone families. It’s appalling the way these people have been treated – there are more and more burdens on the community and they are reaching breaking point,’ he added.

Channel 4 insisted the programme highlights the reality of deprivation for many people in the UK, and gives a voice to those suffering the impact of long-term unemployment.

A Channel 4 spokesman said: ‘In the last half century, Grimsby has faced the almost complete loss of its fishing industry on which the town depended.

‘Nowhere has this loss been more harshly felt than in parts of the East Marsh. This sympathetic observational documentary, filmed over a year, allows individuals and families to tell their stories about living in one of Britain’s most deprived areas and suffering the devastating effect of deindustrialisation.’

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