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11th May 2023

Man lay dead in his home for six years before being found

Steve Hopkins

He was only found after entry was forced for a gas test

A pensioner is believed to have lain dead in his Greater Manchester flat for six years before being discovered.

Robert Alton, 70, is thought to have died in May 2017 but his “skeletal” remains were not found until this year, and only after housing officials forced entry to do a gas test, MailOnline reported.

An inquest was told Wednesday that a court order to enter the retired bookkeeper’s flat, in Bolton, was obtained through his landlord, Bolton at Home, and was undertaken on 9 March, when his body was found.

An angle grinder was used to gain entry to the flat, where a pile of unopened mail was 50cm high.

Bolton, the Mail reported, was found at the top of the stairs to his first-floor flat.

Detective sergeant Dominic Beaver, of Greater Manchester Police, said neighbours had not seen anybody at the flat for at least five years.

A TV guide for May 4, 2017, was found inside the home, open, with reading glasses on one of the pages.

Food with an expiry date of 2017 was also discovered.

The death was not suspicious.

The inquest heard that Alton last spoke to his landlord in April 2017 and that council tax had been paid up to that year, but was now in arrears.

Rent had continued to be paid, via housing benefit.

Dr Patrick Waugh, pathologist, said it was “not possible to determine a cause of death”.

Coroner Peter Sigee found, “on the balance of probabilities” that Alton died in May 2017.

The case happened just over a year after Sheila Seleoane, 58, had to be identified through dental records after laying undiscovered at her Peckham, London, flat for two-and-a-half years.

Alton’s landlord revealed its visit only came after a change in procedure prompted officials to obtain an access order in court. The previous year, the inquest heard, officials made more than a dozen visits, plus phone calls, and sent letters to arrange the test.

Noel Sharpe, chief executive of landlord of Bolton At Home, said after the hearing that the company “should have spotted sooner that something was potentially wrong”.

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