Chilling footage shows baby struggling to breath in home filled with damp and mould

Chilling footage filmed by a desperate mum shows a baby struggling to breath in a home filled with damp and mould.

Gabriel was treated for bronchiolitis after being rushed to hospital just moments before his mum frantically filmed the heartbreaking video in her desperate attempt to get people to listen.

The family live in the same block on the Freehold estate in Rochdale as Awaab Ishak, a young boy whose death has been linked to mould and damp in the flat where he lived.

Awaab died just days after his second birthday in December 2020, with a post-mortem suggesting environmental lung exposure led to Awaab’s death, a Rochdale Coroners Court hearing was told in July.

An investigation by the Manchester Evening News has since uncovered damp and mould problems across other properties on the estate, with young families describing having to make hospital visits because their children struggle to breathe.

The investigation prompted the coroner to call on further action from police ahead of Awaab’s inquest, while social landlord Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) said it would check every home on the estate.

Gabriel’s family, who live in the Ilminster block, are among residents who say they have a constant battle with mould in the bathroom, living room, a bedroom and a kitchen, which was “black” with the infestation at one stage.

Now three years old, the little boy lives with mum Vilma Lavres, dad Amanyllo Alfonso, and their eight-year-old daughter Laura.

The family has previously tried to leave the estate, and Vilma, said: “I went to the council with the video, they said there was nothing they could do.”

The couple moved to their Ilminster home eight years ago, two months before eldest daughter Laura was born. It provided the extra space they needed to begin to raise a family.

But mould problems soon began to mount, they claim.

In an email sent to Homechoice in November 2019, which dealt with social housing bids in Rochdale at the time, Amanyllo described the “great level of precariousness of danger that this house offers my family”.

He wrote: “After my daughter’s birth, dissatisfaction and torment began to haunt me slowly. It was sad and hard to see my month-old daughter getting sick, and more often my wife and I were visiting [the] GP looking for something to alleviate the problem my daughter innocently carried.

“Now five years old, she still has the same symptoms… confirming the bad conditions and the precarious state of the accommodation. Twelve weeks ago my second child (Gabriel) was born.

“Unfortunately, when my son was 10 weeks old, the same symptoms as his sister were diagnosed, and the GP confirmed that the diseases are caused by the excess humidity and fungus that comes into contact daily inside the house. In this flat we have: drainage of water on the wall of the rooms, accumulation of water on the floor of the rooms, permanent presence of fungus and humidity in every room of the house.”

Vilma explained that the situation gets worse in the winter, describing ‘water coming in’. “I clean and paint, clean and paint, all the time. When I moved to this house it was very, very bad, I told them,” Vilma said.

“They said there’s nothing we can do. They say ‘keep your windows open’. When I got back [from the hospital] I was sleeping in the living room because the bedroom was too bad.

“My daughter had the same problem, she was in hospital taking antibiotics. She was only there for a few hours but my son stayed for seven days.

“I report it so many times. They had some offices here, every day I was there, but they closed it. We call and speak on the telephone. Every time when they come they paint it, but [the mould] is back again.”

Their windows always open, the family recently spent £50 on a litre of anti-mould paint which was recommended to them. After the conditions Vilma’s family and others on Freehold had been living in last month was exposed to the public, RBH says it has begun work at their home and improvements to prevent mould will be completed in the coming days.

Gareth Swarbrick, chief executive at RBH, said: “It is understandably distressing to watch the video that Vilma and Amanyllo have shared of Gabriel and we are saddened to see this. “While we had not received any further reports of mould in this home since January 2021, following the M.E.N. raising new concerns in mid-August, we immediately attempted to contact Vilma and Amanyllo to arrange an inspection by a member of our specialist team.

“The family gave us access to the home on September 13 and as a result we have arranged for mould treatment work to be undertaken. Work is starting on this [on September 23] and will be completed next week, as agreed with the family. A new bath panel has also been ordered and a small amount of tiling work has already been carried out in the bathroom.

“This follows on from work we carried out before January 2021, which included mould treatment works and the installation of a Positive Input Ventilation unit. Due to the upcoming inquest [of Awaab Ishak] in November, we are legally unable to comment further.”

Last month, Rochdale Council said there are not enough social homes to meet demand in the borough – a problem which is far from unique to Rochdale.

Coun Daniel Meredith, cabinet member for housing and highways, said: “The council uses a housing register to allocate social housing in Rochdale which has a banded housing criterion.

“How judgements and decisions are made are detailed within the council’s allocation policy and follows part VI of the Housing Act 1996 and the relevant code of guidance. The council’s policy was subject to public consultation and is according to prior council members approval.

“Unfortunately, current demand for social accommodation within Rochdale is higher in all need categories than the availability of social housing. This is a situation faced by most local authorities.

“The council is working hard to address this supply issue, however, there are no immediate solutions to the wider housing crisis. The council brought back in house the homeless and allocations functions earlier this year and will be reviewing service delivery and policies to better meet the changing demands in the housing market.’’