Shop owner refuses to remove mannequin people keep mistaking for dead body

A shop owner has refused to remove a mannequin that some people have referred to as a “distressing” and keep mistaking for a dead body.

The owner and co-founder of the Amaze – a charity launched to help with homelessness – Chris Lee, set up the mannequin in a sleeping bag in Malvern, Worcestershire, to highlight the plight of rough sleepers in the local area.

In a red sleeping bag, next to a drain and gutters, there is also a sign saying, “down here is a bad place for a poster, it’s an even worse place to live.”

He then refused to remove the mannequin, despite being ordered to by police who had received calls from members of the public.

The campaign had backing from the Mayor of Malvern, Cllr Nick Houghton, who helped launch the project last Sunday.

But the stunt was deemed shocking by locals who thought the mannequin was a real person, with passers-by offering it coffee and food.

Chris Lee said: "We did this to create awareness around homelessness. The mannequin – not a most convincing one at that – is sleeping on the street with the sign next to it.

"On Tuesday, December 21, at about 5:30pm, I was approached by a police officer and told to remove it.

"They said it was “too distressing” but I responded saying that the plight of homelessness is distressing.

"The display is there to evoke comment and start a conversation, but the police officer thought that it was too shocking an image and could cause an accident.

"It's just our way of saying please be aware and help the homeless if you can. We have no intention of moving the mannequin, it is making people aware and making people think.

"The Mayor of Malvern opened the project and thought it was a great idea. This was only ever to raise awareness; we were never asking for money or donations. I contacted the mayor and they told me not to worry about it.

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"The majority of responses have been really nice and kind, some people have even thought it was real and brought coffee and food. It is only the police who are unhappy with it.

"The really sad thing is that we often find people huddled in the doorway wanting help. It's the reality of life, there is a number of people suffering."

A spokesperson from West Mercia Police said: "The officer had spoken with the manager to highlight that the mannequin looked very life-like and could easily have been mistaken for a dead body given its appearance and that this had been the case with us receiving such feedback.

"This was also likely to cause both some distress to the public and unnecessary calls to police, so it was requested the display be adapted so as to not cause either of these issues."

On Christmas Day 2018, a rough sleeper named Joby Sparrey was found dead in the doorway of Brays on Worcester Road, Malvern, not far from the display on Amaze's doorstep.

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