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Sunday 18 February 2018

Apollo House vigil planned after death of rough sleeper cancelled

Jack Watson, who died on Thursday
Jack Watson, who died on Thursday
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A vigil planned for a rough sleeper whose tragic death reignited a debate around homelessness has been cancelled after it emerged the man was a convicted sex offender.

Stephen 'Jack' Watson was discovered unconscious on Suffolk Street in Dublin's South Inner city in the early hours of last Thursday morning. He was removed to hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

His death sparked an outpouring of grief and anger from homeless groups and politicians.

Now Independent.ie has learned that Watson, who went by a number of different names, was a registered sex offender. He was placed on the sex offenders register in Ireland after he was deported from Australia and was required to inform gardaí of his whereabouts.

Watson was deported from Australia in October 2015, after he amassing 40 convictions over 19 years, according to the Irish Sun.

According to court reports Watson was jailed for 18 months in April 2008 after he was convicted in Bendigo County Court in the state of Victoria of indecently assaulting two girls under the age of 16.

He was later jailed after a court heard he knowingly passed on the HIV virus to a woman.

After he was deported to Ireland Watson began sleeping rough and in homeless shelters across the city.

During the Home Sweet Home protest last December/January Watson cooked for those who occupied Apollo House.

A vigil for Watson was planned for tomorrow evening outside Apollo House has now been cancelled.

In a statement the Home Sweet Home campaign group, who were unaware of Watson's past, said in a statement on their Facebook page:

"Those associated with the Home Sweet Home campaign are shocked at reports that a homeless man who passed away last week had been deported from Australia for very serious crimes.

"Out of respect for the victims of these crimes a planned vigil outside Apollo House on Thursday evening is cancelled.

"This does not change the fact that many people have died as a result of our housing emergency. This is totally unacceptable and urgently needs to be addressed," the statement reads.

"The artists and trade unionists involved in HSH have had some discussions about building a permanent policy driven intervention into the housing emergency that would systemically target the root causes of this policy made catastrophe.

"Such an initiative not only forms part of a solution to the emergency, but serves as a permanent memorial to all those who have had their lives ruined by it, in perpetuity."

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