Wellington's 'Blanket Man' dies

STREET LIFE: Bedraggled Ben Hana, with only a dirty torn blanket and loin cloth to keep him warm, was seen by some as a quirky oddball and tourist drawcard.
STREET LIFE: Bedraggled Ben Hana, with only a dirty torn blanket and loin cloth to keep him warm, was seen by some as a quirky oddball and tourist drawcard.

Ben Hana, more commonly known as Blanket Man, has died in Wellington Hospital.

The Wellingtonian, 54, died in hospital at 3.35pm today, a Capital and Coast District Health Board spokeswoman confirmed.

Authorities had become increasingly concerned about his health in the past few weeks.

BLANKET MAN: Wellington street identity Ben Hana.
BLANKET MAN: Wellington street identity Ben Hana.

It was not known what he died from. However, he was suffering medical problems stemming from heavy alcohol use and malnutrition, lawyer Maxine Dixon said.

Hana was famous as 'Blanket Man' in Wellington and further afield, with fans creating Myspace, Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia internet sites in his honour. At least one song has been written about him and T-shirts emblazoned with his cartoon image have been sold.

During the debate over the proposed Wellywood sign near the airport, an image of Hana was suggested.

PASSED AWAY: Ben Hana died on Sunday, January 15, 2012.
PASSED AWAY: Ben Hana died on Sunday, January 15, 2012.

In 2010 The Dominion Post revealed that Hana had once lived an ordinary life as a married father of four, holding down a regular job.

However, a series of personal disasters - including killing a friend while drink-driving - led him to rock bottom.

He split with his wife, who died a few years ago, and lost contact with his children.

After spending time in Tokoroa, he arrived back in Wellington in the late nineties and racked up a list of convictions pages long.

In various appearances at Wellington District Court he defended his nakedness as "moon bathing", claimed he smoked cannabis for "peace'' and alleged the car he was caught drink-driving in was a waka.

On another memorable occasion he was deemed unfit to fulfil his community service work because he would not wear shoes, and had not done so for seven years.

But perhaps most famously was the time a judge was forced to issue one of the country's more bizarre bail conditions - that Mr Hana wear underwear at all times.

"I was walking down Courtenay Place and I'm sure he was exposing his genitals,'' the judge said. "It's just not something the public should have to tolerate.''

 

In June 2010 Hana faced cannabis and drinking charges in Wellington District Court and was ordered to be admitted to Wellington Hospital's psychiatric ward. When he returned to the streets he vowed to turn over a new leaf.

Related stories:

The man behind the blanket

Blanket Man back on street

The Dominion Post