Gardaí investigating the deaths of two UK pensioners who are feared to have been dead in their Tipperary home for 18 months will examine whether the Covid-19 virus played any role in the tragedy.
Toxicology tests are now set to prove critical in determining how and when the elderly UK couple died in the south Tipperary home they had secured for their Irish retirement.
It is feared the couple, who have not been formally identified but who were named locally as Nicholas and Hilary Smith, may have been dead for up to 18 months in their bungalow at Cloneen between Fethard and Mullinahone before they were discovered at 4pm on Monday.
One theory now being examined is whether the Covid-19 virus played any role in the tragic deaths.
The grim discovery was made when gardaí called to the house after concerns about the two pensioners were brought to their attention by neighbours.
Some people believed the couple had moved back to the UK during the pandemic with local reports indicating the couple, both aged in their late 70s, were last seen around late 2020 or early 2021.
Described as polite but very private, the couple kept to themselves since they moved to the area near the Kilkenny and Waterford border.
However, concerns were raised with gardaí after locals noted the increasingly unkempt condition of the property as the couple were noted for their pride in keeping the garden and house in immaculate condition.
Gardaí sealed off the rural bungalow after the grim discovery was made.
One body was discovered in a bedroom and the other was found in a separate area of the house.
Both had been dead for a considerable period of time – it is now believed this could be for over 18 months.
There were no signs of forced entry or any indication of a disturbance.
Both bodies were transferred to University Hospital Waterford (UHW) where State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan commenced post mortem examinations.
Those examinations were set to prove painstaking given the condition of the two bodies.
Identification is understood to be reliant on dental records or DNA.
A garda source said the nature of their investigation will now be determined by the post mortem findings.
Toxicology tests are expected to prove critical in helping determine a precise cause of death with one of the deceased said to have suffered from health issues over recent years.
Detectives are keeping an open mind about the double tragedy but there is no indication, so far, that foul play was involved.
Fine Gael Councillor Mark Fitzgerald said neighbours believed the couple had moved away some time ago.
“They had told people they were moving. The assumption was these people weren’t living in the area anymore,” he added.
“It’s very much a feeling of shock and sadness today. You have to think of their family now. It’s a sad time. A resident had noted concerns to me and I just asked the gardaí for a welfare check...that’s how we are in the situation we are in.
“We know very little about the couple. Personally as a councillor and publican you’d know everybody in the area but I never met them. They really did keep to themselves and you have to respect that.”