Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville
Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville told squatters to stay for the winterPhil Noble/Reuters

The leader of a group of squatters who were allowed to spend the winter in a £1.5m building in Manchester has had a violent past, with more than 50 convictions to his name. Wesley Hall, 33, who leads the homeless housing activist group Manchester Angels, has more than 50 criminal convictions for class B drugs, football hooliganism, assaulting his girlfriend and a racially motivated attack on a taxi driver.

After concerns were raised about his suitability to lead the group in 2014, he told a public meeting that he has turned his life around and is trying to atone for his mistakes.

Former Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs made headlines earlier this month when they told the group of homeless activists they could stay in a building they had purchased until February. The pair bought the Manchester Stock Exchange building two years ago, and are in the process of converting it into an exclusive hotel, complete with a private members' terrace and a spa. Neville, who has offered support to homeless people on the Manchester streets for a decade, said he would install showers and arrange for free meals to be delivered from a nearby hotel.

Now the Manchester Angels' initiative threatens to be overshadowed by its founder's past, as well as problems on site. The squatters have had to call police to keep out troublemakers and have also implemented a strict no alcohol or drugs policy on the premises after some people became aggressive. On their Facebook page, they complained that they had to wait four hours for police to respond to an attack on the building, alleging that "the police didn't do anything but hurl patronising abuse."

They added: "What's proving to be problematic is when people who aren't even homeless use the campaign to try and ruin the great efforts of a solid volunteer group and an admirable football player who's now going out of his way to facilitate shelter and basic essentials for Manchester's rough sleepers.

"We can't have a 'open door policy' due to security and safeguarding issues that have arisen over the past few days... Our priority is keeping homeless people safe."