Six year plight could leave family homeless

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A COOKSTOWN family are facing the grim reality that they could be left homeless in matter of days, as their plight to find answers to a dire situation at their home continues.

Martin and Eileen Wallace, who have a two-year-old son Eoin, were issued with an eviction notice by their landlord two weeks ago.

In October of 2004, the couple noticed a smell of oil at a house they had recently bought in Castle Court, so they decided to call in an engineer who, after extensive testings on the house, found no evidence for the smell.

Unbeknown to them, this was the beginning of a six year battle which would result in a severe deterioration of Martin’s health and the couple searching for answers to a long list of problems.

As the smell became stronger an environmental specialist agency were sent to their home to carry out an extensive site survey and following advice from the company moved out of the property as it was deemed uninhabitable.

Martin, who was a fit and healthy footballer, started to complain of a blockage in his throat which was followed by cold night sweats and extreme fatigue.

After several hospital appointments, it was discovered that he was suffering from raised lymph glands and lymph nodes in his chest with symptoms which led doctors to consider Martin was suffering from one of three conditions - Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, TB or Sarcoidosis.

However, after more than 200 hospital appointments and over 40 MRI scans, medics now believe he is suffering from suspected toxic poisoning.

Martin told the MID: “Things couldn’t get any worse now that we have this eviction notice looming over us.

“We have no home to go to, and our primary concern is for the well-being of our two-year-old son, Eoin.

“When we first noticed the smell in 2004, we thought it smelt a bit like petrol, but turned out to be oil under the floors.

“We were told to leave the house and remediation at a cost of £74,000 commenced. However, to our amazement, it failed to find a source for the problem. When the remediation was finished in 2006, we were allowed to move back in, and Eileen and I believed it was problem solved.

“However, the smell returned in October 2008, and we have been out of our home pretty much since then.

“Our insurance company is now refusing to pay landlord rent for our temporary accommodation on Westland Road. The landlord told us that he sympathises with our situation but he his now seeking legal advice.

“Things are now with Financial Ombudsman Service who are presently trying to work out our position, but this takes time and unfortunately we don’t have time because we have nowhere to go.

“In February of this year we received a letter to say that we could return to the house by March, but the source of the problem has yet to be determined and we were deeply concerned about our health.

“This has been a traumatic experience for us and we cannot believe that our home has been destroyed twice and our lives devastated twice.”

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone has been helping Martin with the case. He said: “It’s a shocking and difficult situation to be in. He is in very poor health and the sooner this is all sorted the better.

“I have sent a lot of correspondence to his insurance company and at the moment we are awaiting the response from the financial regulator.

“I hope, for the sake of his family, that they are able to sell their home and move to a new and safe place.”

Cookstown District Council’s Director of Environmental Health, Mark Kelso told the MID: “We were first made aware of the spillage of heating oil at the said premises in October 2005.

“As oil fumes were detected in the dwellings, we asked them to contact their insurance company, which is a standard process to go though as it can be very costly.

“This is a civil issue and our position was to ensure that the insurance company carried out a formal investigation and were active in the proceedings.”

A spokesperson for Churchill Insurance said: “We have been working with the Wallace family for several years in an attempt to resolve their claim, including a very generous settlement offer, but we have not been able to agree on a resolution. The case is now with the Financial Ombudsman Service, who will make a final decision.”