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Pensioner died of cold in his home with no heat

An elderly man died of hypothermia as he lay on the floor of his unheated home during a cold snap in January of this year.

James Cullen (78) of Healy Street, Dublin probably collapsed and then died of the cold, an inquest has been told.

There was no central heating and Mr Cullen lay dead on the floor for at least two days. He was found by gardai after a neighbour raised the alarm.

Mr Cullen, who lived alone, was partially clothed when found and the back door of his house was open.

Initially, his death was treated as suspicious but a postmortem by State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy found no evidence of an assault.

Prof Cassidy told Dublin City Coroner's Court that the autopsy showed Mr Cullen had a number of broken ribs and injuries to his face including bruises over his right eyebrow, the bridge of his nose, the back of his body and his elbows.

These were suggestive of a collapse. There was also reddening of the skin, which was highly suggestive of hypothermia. Prof Cassidy said Mr Cullen also had a severe degree of heart disease.

"It looks as if he probably had a cardiac event that caused him to collapse and he became hypothermic because he was lying there for some time" said Coroner Dr Brian Farrell.

His neighbour, Laurena Loane, told the inquest she last saw Mr Cullen on the morning of Tuesday, January 19, walking along the North Circular Road.

She noticed the light was on in his house over the next couple of days, saying this was very unusual.



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He did not have central heating at home, just a coal fire. On Friday, after Ms Loane and a man delivering coal failed to get a response to a knock on Mr Cullen's door, Ms Loane told another neighbour, whose daughter rang the gardai.

Gardai got into the house through the open back door and found Mr Cullen's body.

Age Action Ireland has appealed to people to keep an eye on neighbours to see who might be at risk when temperatures drop.

Eamon Timmins of the organisation said when room temperature drops below 16C there was increased risk of respiratory illness, such as pneumonia, for older people.

Dr Farrell recorded hypothermia as the cause of death and gave a verdict of misadventure.

csheehy@herald.ie


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