Stars of Benefits Street eight years on – drugs, fame and death

Stars of Benefits Street eight years on – drugs, fame and death

It was the controversial and gritty fly-on-the-wall documentary which gave viewers a no holds barred look at life on the breadline for residents living on a street in Birmingham.

Channel 4's Benefits Street catapulted the likes of 50p man Smoggy, White Dee, Black Dee, Sherrell Dillion, Fungi and Mark and Becky into the public eye when it was aired in January 2014.

The show featured life on one of Britain's most deprived streets and the people who lived in it.

TV crews followed residents for months on James Turner Street in Winson Green.

It ran for five episodes and was watched by millions. The spotlight was well and truly shone on the city street, which even featured on the main BBC and ITV news and had journalists from all over the world descending on the road to grab an interview with the cast.

But where are the stars featured on the show eight years after the show was aired? To find out read below.

Smoggy aka 50p man

Smoggy as he was known, was the door-to-door salesman of the street. Stephen Smith affectionately became known as the "50p Man" after selling cut-price household wares to the residents of Benefits Street.

His entrepreneurial spirit captured the attention of millionaire Charlie Mullins, who offered him a £10,000 deal to open a 50p discount store to rival Poundland. But things didn't work out and the business venture never happened.

Smoggy, a father-of-two, recently revealed he had fled Birmingham after he was the victim of a shocking sledgehammer attack in his own home.

Smoggy moved to Glasgow following the attack after raiders broke into his flat and launched an attack on him with a sledgehammer in 2014.

Speaking to Birmingham Live, he said: “I had a lot of publicity from some people for my 50p business after the show aired but I also had lots of negativity.

“Due to the negativity I decided to knock the 50p business on the head, I was then offered a job selling fish door-to-door at a company in Warwickshire but it didn't work out.

“I decided I needed to get out of Birmingham, so I moved from up to Scotland.”

Smoggy started work in Glasgow as a painter and decorator before moving on to become a machine operator.

However, after suffering a hand injury, he is now unfit to work and is currently on Universal Credit.

White Dee

White Dee, real name Deirdre Kelly, shot to fame after the show was aired.

The public took to the down to earth and larger than life mother figure who became the matron of the street.

Dee starred in Celebrity Big Brother alongside ex-boxing promoter Kellie Maloney and The Only Way Is Essex's star Lauren Goodger, in September 2014.

The mum-of-two entered the house as the Duchess of Solihull as part of a secret task set by CBB and fooled some of the US contestants who really thought she was royalty.

She pretended she was 23rd in line to the throne. Dee later finished fifth on the reality show. She also acted in a film playing the role of Liz in the 2019 film Ray & Liz.

Dee appeared on ITV's Jeremy Kyle in February 2019 to talk about her attempted suicide following the death of her father and a battle with depression.

She moved out of James Turner Street and now lives in Handsworth. She is a charity stalwart and currently co-runs the 'Birmingham says NO – to knife crime and serious youth violence' campaign across the city. She also fundraises for the Balls to Cancer Charity and Birmingham Children's Hospital.

Dee has admitted her life had been ripped apart and "turned upside down" following her appearance on Benefits Street and said bosses 'exploited' residents who were 'hung out to dry.'

She said: "There was no support while it was being made and there was certainly no aftercare. At the time much of the attention was negative.

"We were getting slated for being on benefits. But no-one told us how to deal with it. We were just left to deal with the fallout from the show."

Channel 4 disputed the claims and said in a statement: "Psychological support was offered to all those featured in the series throughout the filming, during transmission and beyond. Advice was given on the likelihood of criticisms and unpleasant comments on social media.

"All contributors were given guidance on engaging with online communities and social media.

"Following the unprecedented media attention, executives from production returned to Birmingham to provide ongoing support to contributors throughout transmission. Close contact and support continued beyond transmission."

Black Dee

Samora Roberts, aka Black Dee, also featured on Benefits Street.

But her life sadly took a turn for the worse after she was jailed for seven years for drug offences and possessing live ammunition.

Police surveillance footage of her home showed a “steady trade” of drugs being sold to customers between May and June 2013.

She was arrested after .38-calibre Smith and Wesson cartridges were found during subsequent police raids.

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She denied possessing live ammunition and the part she played in running an “open all hours” drug-dealing operation.

However, was convicted in November 2015 of possessing ammunition and heroin, and two counts of possession of crack cocaine with intent to supply, having earlier admitted offences related to cannabis.

The 39-year-old was one of the first residents to hit out at Channel 4 producers for "exploiting" locals.

Sherrell Dillion

Sherrell was the wannabe model who dreamed of a glamorous life strutting along Europe's top catwalks.

And the 35-year-old's dream became a reality after the show as she took advantage of the exposure she was given.

Sherrell became a model and before lockdown her work regularly took her to London, Paris and Milan.

She modelled at London Pacific Fashion Week and was a model at the Black Hair Awards, which she described as one of her "favourite jobs."

Mum-of-two Sherrell has also carried out a lot of charity work. She flew out to Ghana with the Attu Reach Foundation – a charity that helps orphans, church communities, schools, widows and vulnerable children in Africa. She visited an orphanage and said the experience was "enlightening and fulfilling."

Although born and raised in Birmingham, generations of her family originated from Ghana. Her dream is to live in Ghana and have a school for budding young models.

Fungi

Fungi, real name Seamus Clarke, had a close friendship with White Dee on the show.

He had a charming personality but battled booze and drug addiction for years.

He claimed that he was left homeless in the wake of the controversial TV show.

He said he was forced to sleep on the streets and beg for cash since the hit Channel 4 series ended and moved away from Birmingham before returning.

The dad-of-four was beaten up and left for dead in 2018. He was knocked out cold after his head hit a kerb and fell to the ground in an attack in his home city.

Fungi previously described living on Universal Credit as “the worst thing in the world” after his monthly payments were cut by more than half.

He had been staying at a house for recovering drug addicts but tragically the 50-year-old died after a heart attack in July 2019.

Mark Thomas and Becky Howe

Mark Thomas, 29, had never held down a full-time job.

But a month after filming finished, he got a job as a manual labourer and he and partner Becky Howe, also 29, stopped claiming benefits.

They and their young children moved away after the show aired, but did not share their new address with their neighbours.

In 2019, neighbour Anna Korzen said: “They seemed to enjoy the attention at first but I think it got too much for them.

“They left six months ago but didn’t say where to.”

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