GARDAI were last night investigating if a man froze to death in his back garden.
The freezing weather has been blamed for the death of widower Harry Hunter, who was found covered in snow in a bush at the back of his home yesterday afternoon. It's thought that Mr Hunter, aged in his 60s, may have been lying in his garden in the north Wexford village of Coolgreaney for some days before he was found by concerned locals.
Gardai do not believe his death was suspicious but were last night working to ascertain the cause of death.
He may have suffered a heart attack or stroke or had a fall and been unable to move or call for assistance, before succumbing to the bitterly cold weather.
Mr Hunter was reported last night to have been originally from the west of Ireland and spent some time at sea before settling in the Knockgreaney area in Coolgreaney, a few miles south-west of Arklow, about 20 years ago. He is believed to have a son in the west of Ireland but his wife died some years ago and he lived alone.
He hadn't been seen for some days and, initially, neighbours thought he may have gone away for a break. However, they started to become worried as time went on and some local people called to the house yesterday.
When they got no answer, they contacted community alert representatives who, in turn, rang the gardai.
Officers from Gorey found Mr Hunter lying in a bush outside at the rear of the house, partially covered in snow.
Local TD Michael D'Arcy said it was "a terrible tragedy" and said it emphasised the need for people to check on neighbours.
"In this case, calling in may not have saved him because he may only have needed to be there a few hours in this cold. But it's exactly the type of thing you hear about in weather like this," he said, adding that anybody living alone could be in danger.
"It's not just the elderly, you don't have to be old -- all you need is to fall or knock yourself unconscious and you mightn't be heard."