The tragic drifter begged for a room for the night during the early hours of Friday morning, before returning to the storage area where he usually sleeps, his friend said.
But just hours later a blaze broke out in his regular sleeping spot, behind shops in Whitley Bay.
And after firefighters extinguished the flames a body was found.
Today Chris Parker has told how he will never forgive himself for sending his pal back out into the cold when he asked for somewhere to stay.
The 29-year-old said: “My friend came to see me and asked if he could stay at mine but I couldn’t let him. I really wish I had now.”
The dead man is thought to be a dad-of-one in his 40s. Chris said he lost his home and family after becoming an alcoholic.
He began to beg on the streets of Newcastle, and had recently started sleeping in the bin store in Whitley Bay to keep warm.
Chris met him when he too was sleeping rough in the town.
“He’s one of my best friends,” he said. “I used to live on the streets with him. He just fell out with his family and ended-up homeless.”
At around 2.30am yesterday morning, the man visited Chris in accommodation where he is staying, on South Parade. He told his friend he was cold and asked if he could come in to sleep.
Chris refused to let his pal inside fearing it would get him in trouble, but he gave him a jacket.
When Chris heard a man had been found dead after a fire behind Whitley Road he instantly suspected who it would be – and his worst fears were confirmed when he visited the scene and saw it was the place his friend used to sleep.
“He asked to stay at mine but I couldn’t let him,” he said. “But I gave him an extra jacket. He used to sleep on the beach and light fires to keep warm, so that’s probably what happened.
“He has been sleeping there for a while just to stay out the cold. I think he had a blanket and a mattress in there.”
Paying tribute to his pal Chris said: “He was just always smiling and joking about.”
Emergency services were called to the scene, behind a dentists between Whitley Road and Clifton Terrace, at around 6.20am on Friday morning.
The fire broke out in a bin storage area between the shops and a metal gate and people living nearby saw flames leaping into the air.
On Friday, the back lane behind the shops was cordoned off with police tape as uniformed officers stood guard.
A white tent covered the spot where the body was discovered, and forensics officers in white overalls could be seen at work.
Acting Chief Insp Andy Fairlamb, from Northumbria Police’s Major Crime Team, is now appealing for witnesses.
“Inquiries are in their very early stages in relation to this incident. Our officers are currently at the scene carrying out investigations to establish the circumstances surrounding it.
“I would urge anyone who witnessed anything suspicious in the area to contact us as they may have information to assist with the ongoing inquiries.
“I’d also ask anyone with concerns to speak to officers on patrol in the area who are patrolling to offer reassurance to residents.”
Group manager Dave Jefferson, of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, added:
“At 6.17 hours Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s Control Room received a call regarding a fire in an outhouse at the rear of Clifton Terrace, Whitley Bay.
“Two appliances and crews from Tynemouth Community Fire Station attended. The fire was extinguished using one hose reel and positive pressure ventilation was used to clear smoke from the ground, first and second floors of a neighbouring property.
“During firefighting actions a casualty was found within the outhouse. Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service is working closely with Northumbria Police during the investigation of this incident.”
Anyone with information should call Northumbria Police on 101, extension 69191, quoting log number 168 21/11/14.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 22 Nov 2014