THE distraught friend of a rough sleeper who died in a Taunton car park on Boxing Day has questioned how such a tragedy could happen in 21st Century Britain.

Fellow homeless man Charles Gorst woke at around 8pm on Tuesday to discover paramedics working on his friend, known only as 'Scotch' Alan, on the top floor of High Street Car Park.

Alan, originally from Glasgow and who has been in Taunton for ten years, was rushed by ambulance to Musgrove Park Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Mr Gorst, 47, who was brought up in Liverpool and came to Taunton in 2001, said he believed the cause of death was hypothermia.

He added: "We'd been moved on from a number of places by the police, accused of begging.

"We went to sleep on the top layer of the car park. I had a quilt, but Alan didn't have anything except the clothes he was in.

"I was woken by the ambulance people working on him.

"It was really cold and raining heavily. We were wet through. There was nowhere we could go for help. We couldn't get into Taunton Association for the Homeless and (homeless charity) Open Door was closed.

Somerset County Gazette:

Charles Gorst.

"There was no-one there for us and Alan's ended up dead. I don't know what to do next.

"This really can't have happened in Taunton. How can it happen in Britain today? There's something wrong.

"It's done my head in, broken my heart."

READ MORE: 'Devastated' young man tried to save rough sleeper's life

A spokeswoman for South Western Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust said an ambulance was called to the car park at 8.05pm, arriving within three minutes. She added that a man was taken to Musgrove.

An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said officers were called to reports of a man found collapsed in High Street Car Park.

He said: "His death is not being treated as unexplained or suspicious."

The case has been referred to the Coroner.

Mr Gorst and Alan were among several homeless people who had enjoyed a Christmas lunch laid on by The Algarve restaurant in High Street the previous day.

Polly Neate, chief executive at housing charity Shelter, said: "We’re extremely saddened to hear of this gentleman’s tragic death.

"Those sleeping on the streets are exposed to cold weather, ill health and even sometimes violence and tragically many rough sleepers frequently die younger as a result.

"Alongside helping people off the streets we must tackle the root causes of the housing crisis by urgently building more affordable homes and ending the freeze on housing benefit.

"If we fail to act, many will lose the roof over their heads and no-one deserves to be homeless at Christmas."

COMMENT: 'Death should tell us things need to change'

Taunton Association for the Homeless and Open Door were unavailable to comment as the County Gazette went to press.