Com­edy star: I was robbed of my dig­nity, free­dom and £325,000... by ‘car­ing’ coun­cil

He was one of Bri­tain’s best loved char­ac­ter ac­tors, but now Howard Lew Lewis en­dures a Kaf kaesque or­deal that will send a chill through any fam­ily who care for an el­derly rel­a­tive

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - The Sexmin­ster Scan­dal - By Ge­or­gia Ed­kins

AN AC­TOR who once ap­peared in some of Bri­tain’s best-loved tele­vi­sion come­dies claims he is be­ing ‘held hostage’ by a Scot­tish lo­cal au­thor­ity which has ‘robbed’ him of his life sav­ings. Howard Lew Lewis be­came a fa­mil­iar face to view­ers of shows such as Maid Mar­ian and Her Merry Men, Brush Strokes and Black­ad­der.

But now he is fight­ing an ex­traor­di­nary bat­tle with the City of Ed­in­burgh Coun­cil af­ter it seized con­trol of his fi­nances, in­clud­ing TV roy­al­ties, and more than £300,000 from the sale of his home.

The coun­cil as­sumed guardian­ship over Mr Lewis and his af­fairs, claim­ing he does not have the men­tal ca­pac­ity to make de­ci­sions for him­self.

But Mr Lewis claims the coun­cil has com­mit­ted a ma­jor in­jus­tice and has abused its safe­guard­ing pow­ers.

He says coun­cil of­fi­cials failed to dis­cuss the move with ei­ther him or his daugh­ter, leav­ing him trapped against his will in a com­mu­nity hospi­tal while be­ing de­nied ac­cess to his own money and sav­ings.

The 76-year-old has is­sued an im­pas­sioned plea to the coun­cil to sur­ren­der guardian­ship and let him move into a house with his daugh­ter Debbie and his grand­son.

Although Mr Lewis suf­fers from the early stages of dementia, when he spoke to The Scot­tish Mail on Sun­day from his bed in a care home he was crys­tal clear in his de­mands.

He said: ‘I want to go home. I’m just here in my bed all day and they won’t let me out.

‘I want my money. I haven’t had any money for months and months. I just wish they’d give it to Debbie.

‘I had a very good life. The jobs, the act­ing, it’s been re­ally straight­for­ward, and it’s a pity I can’t have that now. It’s a pity we couldn’t con­tinue that way, be­cause we could’ve done, you know.’

Mr Lewis’s only child, his daugh­ter Deb­o­rah Mi­lazzo, 42, is fight­ing on his be­half to end the coun­cil’s con­trol and to be made his guardian her­self.

She said: ‘They’re prac­ti­cally hold­ing him hostage. All I want is for my dad, my son and me to be to­gether, but that won’t hap­pen this Christ­mas.

‘Ed­in­burgh City Coun­cil are rob­bing him of his life sav­ings – his ben­e­fits, the money from the Sur­rey house, it’s hor­ren­dous. The coun­cil have ef­fec­tively just stolen it from us. They’ve de­stroyed our fam­ily.’

For the mil­lions of TV view­ers who laughed along with Mr Lewis, known as Lewy, when he played pub land­lord Elmo Put­ney in the hit 1980s TV show Brush Strokes, the sight of him now – un­shaven, frail and hol­low-cheeked – will be shock­ing.

Con­fined to a care home bed, his life now is a far cry from the glam­our and ex­cite­ment of his glory days as a TV star and he wishes he could still work.

He was born in a tower block in West Lon­don’s Maida Vale in 1941, and his early work­ing life saw him em­ployed as ev­ery­thing from pa­per de­liv­ery boy to a com­puter op­er­a­tor for the Royal Air Force.

But star­dom ran in the fam­ily, with his grand­mother be­ing the in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned opera singer Dame Ethel Gomer-Lewis.

To­day, de­spite his age and the on­set of dementia, his mem­o­ries are still sharp as he tells how his ca­reer be­gan. He said: ‘My mates were ac­tors and I thought, “Well, that looks good – I’ll do that”. It wasn’t dif­fi­cult for me. They weren’t dif­fi­cult jobs and I en­joyed do­ing them all. I think it’s be­cause they had the right writ­ers. When you’ve got good writ­ers, you don’t have to think.’

It was not long af­ter his first au­di­tion at the Half Moon Theatre in East Lon­don that he be­came a reg­u­lar fix­ture on TV, work­ing along­side every­one from Ron­nie Barker to Rowan Atkin­son.

He was best known for his roles as Ra­bies in Maid Mar­ian, Hal in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Elmo in Brush Strokes. Mr Lewis also played smaller parts in hit TV se­ries such as Open All Hours, The Queen’s Nose, Chelms­ford 123 and ITV drama Min­der.

Look­ing back, he says: ‘I would’ve liked to do more act­ing. I re­ally en­joyed it – but then this all hap­pened.’

Mr Lewis’s se­ri­ous health com­pli­ca­tions be­gan in 2011 af­ter the lower half of his right leg was am­pu­tated due to di­a­betes. He also suf­fered a stroke which left his right side paral­ysed.

As his con­di­tion wors­ened, his daugh­ter helped him sell his house in Sur­rey and he moved to live with her in Ed­in­burgh, plan­ning to end his days with her and his grand­son.

But in Oc­to­ber 2015, Ms Mi­lazzo – Mr Lewis’s daugh­ter from his mar­riage to his se­cond wife Anna, from whom he is di­vorced – found her­self un­able to care for him by her­self at home. A doc­tor re­ferred her fa­ther to Ed­in­burgh Royal In­fir­mary for an as­sess­ment to

‘The coun­cil have de­stroyed our fam­ily’

see if he qual­i­fied for a home care pack­age.

She claims that then, with no warn­ing and no con­sent from Mr Lewis, he was put into Pit­ten­dre­ich Care Home in Lass­wade, Mid­loth­ian, for seven months. Mean­while, the coun­cil was granted a ‘cor­po­rate ap­pointee-ship’ which allowed it to take full con­trol of both his wel­fare and fi­nances.

In or­der to as­sume the role, which is rat­i­fied by West­min­ster’s De­part­ment for Work and Pen­sions, the pa­tient – in this case, Mr Lewis – must be deemed ei­ther men­tally or phys­i­cally in­ca­pac­i­tated or have no re­li­able fam­ily mem­ber to man­age their af­fairs.

But Mr Lewis and Ms Mi­lazzo main­tain that the au­thor­i­ties never con­sulted him on the move.

They say that, had of­fi­cials held a proper dis­cus­sion with Mr Lewis, he would have asked for his daugh­ter to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for him. Ms Mi­lazzo said: ‘I couldn’t take him home, I couldn’t ac­cess his ac­counts. It was ter­ri­ble.’

In July, Ms Mi­lazzo won back con­trol of her fa­ther’s wel­fare and fi­nances, but their vic­tory turned out to be short-lived.

His daugh­ter re­called: ‘It was only for two weeks. I called the doc­tor be­cause dad was feel­ing dizzy and dis­ori­en­tated, prob­a­bly be­cause he had been put on mor­phine.

‘Then two men­tal health of­fi­cers ar­rived and told me he was men­tally in­ca­pac­i­tated, even though a dis­trict nurse’s re­port from June had said he was on good form, en­gag­ing well and jok­ing.’

Mr Lewis was again taken to Ed­in­burgh Royal In­fir­mary be­fore be­ing put in Ellen’s Glen House, a com­mu­nity hospi­tal in Lib­er­ton, Ed­in­burgh, where he re­mains.

In a move that Mr Lewis has called ‘ab­so­lutely ridicu­lous’, the City of Ed­in­burgh Coun­cil again has com­plete con­trol over his wel­fare and fi­nances – in­clud­ing his old age pension, his dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits, the £325,000 he made from the sale of his for­mer home in Sur­rey and TV roy­al­ties from three dif­fer­ent act­ing agen­cies. The for­mer char­ac­ter ac­tor is adamant he wants the coun­cil’s guardian­ship, granted on Oc­to­ber 26, over­turned.

Yes­ter­day, as he lay in his hospi­tal bed, Mr Lewis de­manded: ‘Give the money to Debbie. Why can’t she have it?

‘I just want to be home. In­stead I’ll spend Christ­mas all on my own. It’s mis­er­able here. I just don’t know what to do.’

Last night, the City of Ed­in­burgh Coun­cil con­firmed that Mr Lewis was sub­ject to wel­fare and fi­nan­cial guardian­ship but in­sisted that it had acted in his best in­ter­ests.

A spokesman ex­plained that, while at Ellen’s Glen House com­mu­nity hospi­tal, Mr Lewis had lost the ca­pac­ity to make his own de­ci­sions on his care and funds, and that in Oc­to­ber of this year Ed­in­burgh Sher­iff Court ruled that a coun­cil so­cial worker should be­come Mr Lewis’s wel­fare guardian with a so­lic­i­tor his fi­nan­cial guardian.

The spokesman told The Scot­tish Mail on Sun­day: ‘The safety and care of our ser­vice users, to­gether with the pro­tec­tion of their rights, re­mains our high­est pri­or­ity.

‘There has been a de­lib­er­ate move to shift the bal­ance of care from hospi­tals to com­mu­nity-based set­tings, to care for peo­ple at home or in a homely set­ting.

‘The part­ner­ship works to achieve this wher­ever pos­si­ble – how­ever, in some cases, due to med­i­cal needs or safety concerns, this is not al­ways fea­si­ble.’

DAYS OF GLAM­OUR: Howard Lew Lewis with his se­cond wife Anna Burke, mother of his daugh­ter Debbie

FRAIL: Howard Lew Lewis with his daugh­ter Debbie Mi­lazzo

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