Pensioner lay dead in flat for up to a month

16 Devonshire Road, Hastings
16 Devonshire Road, Hastings

A PENSIONER lay dead in her flat for up to four weeks before her body was discovered by police an inquest heard.

The badly decomposed body of Catherine Joyce Clancy, 70, was found sitting upright on a sofa in her flat in Devonshire Road.

It was the second time in less than a year that a pensioner had been found in such tragic circumstances.

Last September, the body of 72-year-old Silvana Sanguinetti was discovered in her flat in nearby Cornwallis Gardens where it had laid for at least four months.

At Wednesday’s hearing at Hastings Magistrates Court, East Sussex Coroner Alan Craze heard how Mrs Clancy was believed to be a widow whose only known relatives had been traced to Scotland but were estranged.

Her body was in such a bad state of decomposition when found on May 4, it had to be identified by dental records.

Mrs Clancy’s GP was the first to give evidence.

Dr Hannah Hughes told how Mrs Clancy had poor health suffering from diabetes, bronchitis, a skin condition, depression and high cholesterol.

After Mrs Clancy missed several appointments, Dr Hughes arranged to visit her flat with social services but was refused entry.

Neighbour Karen Da Silva, who lived in a flat below, would regularly visit Mrs Clancy during the six years she lived at the address.

She told the court she last saw her hobbling through the town centre in early April.

“I used to go down and knock on her door,” said Miss Da Silva.

“She found it hard to move. She had to get up lots of stairs.

“She smoked a lot.

“I saw her last in early April in town and she had a swollen ankle.

“I used to go down at 9pm and check on here because she didn’t sleep regular hours.

“I started to to notice a smell. I thought it might be a blocked drain or a dead seagull.

“On May 2 I knocked on the door a couple of times but got no response.

“I then phoned the police.”

But it was another two days before the police decided to investigate.

PC Luke Smith told East Sussex Coroner’s Court he was first on the scene at 7.20pm on May 4.

He said: “As soon as I stepped inside the flat, I was hit by the overwhelming smell of someone deceased.

“The smell almost knocked me out. Sitting up on the sofa was a very badly decomposed female body.

“The body was black.

“There was milk in the fridge dated April 10 but not a lot of food.”

A post mortem was carried out by consultant histo-pathologist Dr Stanford Mathe at the Conquest Hospital.

He was unable to give an exact cause of death due to decomposition. But he did suggest that a heart attack was the probable cause.

Mr Craze recorded a verdict of death by natural causes in that Mrs Clancy’s heart failed brought on by heart disease with high cholesterol and diabetes as contributing factors.

Steve Hare, chief executive of Age Concern East Sussex, said: “We know older people face social isolation these days. There are 18,000 people living alone in the county.

“Friends and family are not calling around as much.

“There is now a ‘sandwich’ generation of people in their 40s and 50s who not only have children to look after they ageing parents. They just have less time.

“Families are living further away from each other these days.

“Fifty years ago there were more close kit family communities that looked after each other more.

“And the traditional safety net has been eroded. Milkmen, paperboys, bobbies on the beat and bob-a-job scouts have gone. Even the postmen only do one delivery a day now.

“Society must realise that older people are an asset to the community and should not be seen as a problem.

“They have skills, talent and experience and play and important part in our society.”