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Pensioner (82) body left undiscovered in sitting room for seven months, inquest hears


(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

(Stock photo)

A PENSIONER who died in his home sitting in front of an electric heater lay undiscovered for seven months.

The revelation came as Cork Coroner Philip Comyn warned the inquest into the death of Richard 'Ritchie' Scanlan (82) that it was "troubling" and "disheartening" that an elderly man could lay dead and undiscovered in his home for so long in modern Ireland despite an age of mass communication.

His body was discovered in his home at Madden's Buildings in Blackpool, Cork on July 19 2019.

The grim discovery was made when a relative, who was very concerned about Mr Scanlan, called to the property and subsequently alerted gardaí.

Mr Scanlan had received great support from his family over the years but insisted on living a reclusive lifestyle.

He had been cared for over many years by his sister who died in 2001. His family tried to maintain contact with him but they would often only see him at family funerals.

A post mortem examination indicated that Mr Scanlan may have died the previous January, seven months before his body was found.

Mr Comyn was told by Garda Eric Stafford that he attended the scene on July 19 and found the pensioner's body lying dead near an electric heater.

The body was in an advanced state of decomposition. A quantity of post was discovered inside the front door and a subsequent examination of it revealed the oldest unopened mail dated back to January 9.

Mr Scanlan did not want a mobile phone or landline connection to the house. Garda Stafford said that Mr Scanlan last visited his GP on October 10 2018 and last filled out his medical prescription on December 17 2018.

He missed the collection of his pension which was due on January 4. Neighbours who spoke to gardaí described Mr Scanlan as a very private individual who kept to himself.

A lot of elderly people were living in the Madden's Buildings area and they did not notice or find it unusual that Mr Scanlan was not seen out and about.

A post mortem examination was conducted at Cork University Hospital (CUH) by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster.

She found that, because of the advanced state of decomposition -something that was accelerated by the proximity of the body to the electric heater - a cause of death could not be determined.

Gardaí had found nothing suspicious in the property and no sign of any trauma to the remains.

Dr Bolster confirmed that no trauma or fractures were found on the body.

However, because of the state of decomposition of the organs, no precise cause of death could be determined.

Mr Comyn said that, because of the post mortem findings, an open verdict would have to be recorded.

"I find it troubling in this day and age with so many means of communication that this poor man slipped through the cracks," he said.

Mr Comyn acknowledged that Mr Scanlan was a very private and almost reclusive man whose family did everything they possibly could to try to help him.

"But I find it strange that a man who did not collect his social welfare payments when due for over seven months did not trigger alarms."

He also queried how no alarms were triggered when the deceased failed to top up his medical prescription and failed to turn up at both the pub and bookies which he usually frequented twice a week.

"It is disheartening in this day and age with mass communication that he was not detected before this," he said.

The circumstances of the tragedy shocked many in the local community. Lord Mayor of Cork Councillor John Sheehan expressed his sympathies to Mr Scanlan's family.

Councillor Sheehan, who is based in Blackpool, said the entire community was shocked at the death of "an absolute gentleman."

Mr Scanlan's death was the second such instance of a pensioner laying undiscovered in their home in Cork for a period of time.

Last summer, Age Action Cork development manager John O'Mahony urged people to check regularly on their elderly neighbours.

"We are very concerned to hear about this tragic incident. Sadly, it is not an isolated one either. It is sad and unacceptable that this type of thing can happen," he said.

"More needs to be done to consolidate the services available to people and to make sure that nobody falls through the cracks."

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