Housing association discovers body of tenant six years after death
A British housing association apologized after discovering a tenant’s body in his home possibly six years after he died.
“Everyone at Bolton at Home has been deeply shocked by this, and we realize it will concern and upset people to learn his body remained undiscovered for such a long time,” Noel Sharpe, chief executive of Bolton At Home, said in a statement.
“It’s completely unacceptable to us that something like this has happened, and we’ve taken action to reduce the risk of it happening again,” Sharpe added. “The reason we didn’t discover Robert’s death for so long is because our previous procedure, while meeting legal requirements, wasn’t strong enough to prevent something like this happening.”
The association discovered the corpse of Robert Alton in his apartment. A coroner determined Alton would have died in 2017 at the age of 70, his death going unnoticed since he continued to pay rent through automatic rent payments funded by housing benefits.
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Sharpe said the association found Alton after making a number of attempts to contact him and arrange gas safety checks.
“Opportunities were missed in spotting that something was potentially wrong,” Sharpe added.
The association officials also discovered a 1½-foot pile of unopened mail, food that expired in 2017 and reading glasses on a TV guide for May 4, 2017, The Guardian reported.
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A police investigation concluded no suspicious circumstances involved in Alton’s death, but it could not determine a cause death.
“On the balance of probabilities, Mr Alton died in May 2017,” Peter Sigee, the coroner, said. “I’m satisfied the appropriate conclusion is an open conclusion.”
The association changed its procedures on council tax collection, which allowed it to gain instant access to his home and discover his body.
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Sharpe said the association offered “heartfelt condolences” to Alton’s family and apologized for missing the signs that something was wrong, the BBC reported.
The Bolton council said Alton’s death was a “tragic case which has had a profound impact on the whole Bolton community.”
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“We are currently reviewing Mr Alton’s account to identify any potential missed opportunities to act sooner,” the council added.
“Pending the outcome of this review, appropriate additional measures will be put in place with a view to preventing similar tragic cases in the future.”