AN INVESTIGATION will be held into whether the recent spate of deaths involving rough sleepers in Oxford was due to abuse or neglect.

Five people who are understood to have been rough sleeping or had a history of doing so have died in three months.

Last December, a 37-year-old man died in McDonald's in Cornmarket; four days later a 36-year-old man was found dead in Hythe Bridge Street.

On January 21, a 44-year-old woman died, followed by a 50-year-old man on January 29. Both of those were in funded homelessness projects, the city council said.

A man in his 60s was found dead in St Frideswide's churchyard in Botley Road on February 5.

It is understood a sixth man who was previously homeless has died in that time - but the city council said he was living in private accommodation. 

The council has now asked the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Adults Board (OSAB) to hold a review which would look at whether serious harm experienced by people with care and support needs was down to neglect or abuse and whether this could have been predicted or stopped.

Linda Smith, the council's deputy leader, said: “We share the public’s sadness and concern at the recent unexplained deaths of rough sleepers and people who had experienced homelessness."

She added: "We want to establish whether these tragic deaths could have been prevented and to learn any necessary lessons that might help prevent others dying in future.”