the body of a woman, described as “a private person” by neighbours, may have been lying undetected for up to 10 months in her Burnley home.
Maureen Wood (63) was found dead in a chair at her home in Ebor Street on October 20th by an inspector from energy supplier EON who forced entry into the house.
The inspector had been sent to cut off the gas supply to the house, situated near Burnley General Hospital, due to non-payment of bills since January of that year.
An inquest at Burnley Coroner’s Court heard evidence from pathologist Dr Walid Salman, who conducted the post-mortem examination, and said the body may have been there “for several months.”
Miss Wood, who had no next of kin, died from ischemic heart disease, according to the pathologist.
Dr Salman said: “The body was very decomposed and as such it was difficult to carry out an examination. I conducted histological tests which revealed severe coronary atherosclerosis.”
East Lancashire Coroner’s Officer PC Bob Wilson said Miss Wood lived alone.
He said: “I made inquiries after being contacted by Pennine CID following the discovery of the body.
“EON had made a previous visit to the house due to non-payment of bills since January, but it was only on October 20th, when an inspector broke in to cut off the supply, that the body was discovered.
“The death was not treated as suspicious. There was a large quantity of post and medicine in the house and we discovered the lady had lived there since 1993.
“Neighbours described her as a private person who was seldom seen. We believe she had a gentleman friend from Nelson who died in January last year, but no next of kin. She last visited hospital in June 2010 for a skin complaint but missed a mammogram hospital appointment in June last year. Considering the non-payment of bills, she was potentially dead from January 2011.”
Former Director General of Age Concern Mr Gordon Lishman CBE, who lives in Burnley, described the case as “very sad” but added it was too easy to condemn neighbours for not noticing the woman’s death. He added: “In many cases, people choose to lead private lives and not interact with their neighbours.
“From what I gather, this lady had no family to keep an eye on her. Also, as she was not relatively old or in ill health she likely did not have carers or health professionals visiting her regularly.
“The world has changed since the days of my father who was a family doctor and knew all his patients in the village. GPs do not know their patients as well these days. However, it is very easy to look back with rose-tinted spectacles as this kind of case could and did happen in the past.”
East Lancashire Coroner Mr Richard Taylor recorded a verdict of natural causes.