A British ‘Good Samaritan’ may have saved the life of an elderly Czech homeless man living with his dog in a cold seaside Civil War bunker.
Retired police officer, Derek Hepple, 80, lives next to Santa Pola’s Tamarit beach in Alicante Province and came across ‘George’ a month ago on his daily coastline walks.
He’s now in Elche Hospital and has been diagnosed with a serious heart condition and fluid on his lungs.
George’s dog, Boba, is being cared for by an animal sanctuary.
With a background of animal charity fundraising in his native North-East England, Derek came across a number of abandoned cats when he moved to Santa Pola.
He decided to feed them at around 5.00 am every day for the last five years so as not to attract the wrath of some neighbours.
On an early morning November walk he stumbled across something much larger that was moving in a concrete bunker at the entrance to the salt flats on the beach.
A head peaked out from underneath some blankets belonging to 71-year-old George who hailed from the Czech Republic.
The cold concrete structure dating back to the late thirties was his home along with the companionship of his Portuguese Water Dog called Boba.
Guardia Civil officers would occasionally move him on, but he would always find a different bunker in the same vicinity.
Derek was shocked by the discovery and despite language proving to be quite a barrier, he decided to help George and Boba.
Speaking to the Olive Press, Derek said: “I immediately went back to my apartment 500 metres away and returned with sandwiches and coffee for George, plus some dog food for Boba.”
“The bunker was almost like a concrete igloo around 12 feet in diameter and I decided to make daily visits to feed both of them and make sure they are alright,” added Derek.
“Nobody this old should be living like this, especially with the cold nights.”
Derek also roped in some of his neighbours to lend a hand.
Another former policeman, Richard Sparrow and his partner Elaine provided a sleeping bag while a Spanish resident named Paco brought in some extra food supplies.
Despite living off just an old age pension, Derek’s generosity stretched to bringing in fresh clothing to George during his visits including socks, a scarf, leggings, a hoodie, and a Beanie hat.
“I had to do something because what he was wearing was soiled and wet,” he explained.
Derek appreciated that providing help was not going to solve George’s problems in the medium and long term and he contacted Santa Pola’s social services department.
The initial reply was that ‘we cannot help him, if he does not want to help himself’.
A fortnight later, Marga Salmeron from Santa Pola council met with Derek to check out George’s living conditions.
“She was appalled and she phoned a doctor to attend to him before an ambulance arrived to take him to hospital,” Derek said.
Boba the dog had initially vanished but Derek caught up with her on Sunday on the beach with a couple who are Marga’s friends.
“He was on a lead but jumped up and wrapped its legs around mine- and he’d had a complete haircut.”
Boba is now in the care of the Barkinside animal sanctuary run by a friend of Derek’s.
Derek’s work was not complete as later the same day he went to the bunker and filled what he described as ‘loads of bin liners’ with George’s belongings.
He also recovered his precious Parka jacket in some rubbish and took it home to give it a thorough wash.
“All’s well that ends well and I’m really pleased that it’s all come good after a month, thanks to Marga,” exclaimed Derek.
To give Derek’s good deeds some additional context, he went through a major hospital operation in September and is still recovering.
His timely seasonal generosity is most certainly inspirational.