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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 20 November, 2019
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Body of pensioner (84) left undiscovered in Cork sitting room for seven months, inquest hears

The coroner said it was ‘disheartening’ that the man’s absence from day-to-day life was not noted sooner.

Image: Shutterstock/Derick Hudson

A CORONER HAS expressed concern after an inquest heard that an 84-year-old man lay dead at his home in Cork city for up to seven months.

Richie Scanlon of Madden’s Buildings on the northside of Cork city was found dead on 19 July. His sister and nephew let themselves in to the property and raised the alarm when they found him dead on the floor.

Mr Scanlon was in a decomposed state. The decomposition of the body was accelerated by the fact that an electric heater was still on at the house.

Cork city coroner Philip Comyn said it was “disheartening” that the absence of Mr Scanlon from day-to-day life was not noted sooner.

“It seems very strange that a man didn’t collect his pension and that didn’t trigger any alarm bells,” he said.  “The fact that he was a man of routine who went to the pub twice a week and went to the bookies -  I find it troubling that in this age of mass communication this poor gentleman appeared to have slipped through the cracks.”

Comyn acknowledged that the family had done the best they could for the lifelong bachelor given his reclusive nature. Mr Scanlon been cared for by a sister for many years. When she died in 2001, the family tried to maintain contact with him.

Denis Cronin, who is a nephew of the pensioner, told the Coroner’s Court that his uncle was an intensely private man. He last saw him on Christmas Eve 2018.

“He (Ritchie) kept himself to himself. From a family perspective he wouldn’t have attended weddings. He didn’t like a fuss.”

Cronin said that his uncle didn’t want to take help from outsiders and declined to engage with the Meals On Wheels service. It wasn’t unusual for him to go long periods without contacting his family and his relatives would always have to initiate the conversation.

Denis Cronin does not live in Cork, but he visited his uncle at Christmas and in the summer. He stated that his uncle liked horse racing and going to the pub and that the bookies and the pub were his social outlets.

Denis said he was worried about his uncle when he visited him on 24 December last year because he had an ulcer on his leg. Ritchie reassured his nephew that he was getting the ulcer dressed and that he was able to go to the doctor by using a taxi service. He added that his uncle didn’t want outside assistance.

How he was found 

Joe O’Mahony, who is also a nephew of the late pensioner, said he went to the property with his mother at 11.30am on 19 July 2019. He let himself in with a key and found Ritchie dead on the floor.

Garda Eric Stafford who attended at the scene said there was no sign of forced entry in the house. The post had built up with the earliest unopened letter dating back to 9 January. An electric heater was still on in the house.

The house was without a landline and Mr Scanlon refused to have a mobile phone. His last prescription fill was on 17 December 2018 and his first missed pension was recorded on 4 January this year.

Garda Stafford said that neighbours told him that Scanlon lived a reclusive lifestyle. Locals didn’t view it as unusual that he wasn’t about.

The body was removed to the morgue at Cork University Hospital for a postmortem examination. Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said she was unable to ascertain a cause of dead because the body was in such an advanced state of decomposition. An open verdict was recorded in the case.

Sergeant Fergus Twomey and coroner Philip Comyn extended their sympathy to the family following their tragic loss.

Sergeant Twomey commended investigating garda Eric Stafford for his professionalism and sensitivity following his arrival at a “disturbing scene.” He also thanked the fire brigade for their assistance on the day.

Mr Scanlon was originally from the Gouldings and Thomas Davis Street area of Cork but had lived at Madden’s Buildings for many years.

Following the death the Cork-based service Friendly Call urged anyone isolated or lonely to sign up to their daily checks.  The free daily call service checks in on people over the phone. It also has a system in place to check up on someone who does not answer the daily call.

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About the author:

Olivia Kelleher

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