Darren Robson, 43, had been unable to find a bed for the night in the seaside town of Whitley Bay, so sought shelter next to the bins behind a row of shops.
His body was found the next morning following a fire in the area, one it is believed he he may have started in an effort to keep warm.
Chris Parker, who says he was Robson’s best friend, told Chronicle Live: ‘He used to sleep on the beach and light fires to keep warm, so that’s probably what happened.’
Robson had asked to stay at Parker’s accommodation on the night he died. Parker refused, as he feared it would get him in trouble.
He instead offered him his jacket, yet now says he will never forgive himself for turning Robson away.
Despite Parker’s theory, police are not ruling out other potential causes of death.
Chief inspector Andy Fairlamb, from Northumbria Police’s Major Crime Team, said, ‘while there is currently no evidence to suggest he has been assaulted, we’re keeping an open mind and enquiries continue.’