12:55pm Wednesday 20th June 2012
A PENSIONER found dead in an armchair at her Burnley home could have died at least 10 months earlier, an inquest heard.
Maureen Wood’s body was only discovered after an electricity firm sent a worker to force entry into her terrace home in Ebor Street to cut off her supply over unpaid bills.
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle called 63-year-old Ms Wood’s death ‘horrifying’ and urged neighbours to be observant if anyone was seen for a long period.
Geraldine Moore, chief officer at Age UK Lancashire, described the case as a ‘real tragedy’.
And yesterday shocked neighbours said Ms Wood was such a recluse that they had thought the home was empty.
Mr Birtwistle said: “It is simply terrible in 2012 that a lady can lay dead and undiscovered in her armchair for a period of months without anyone being alerted.
“There must have been post piling up, she would be absent from local shops and businesses.
“We should look after each other as neighbours, especially older people. It’s not being nosey, it’s being part of a strong and caring community.”
Mrs Moore said: “Social isolation is one of the big issues we deal with. We would urge everyone to take the time to check on older relatives and neighbours.”
Neighbour Jayne Simpson, 64, said: "It was quite a shock to everybody on the street. I think everybody nearby thought the house was empty. You never saw anybody there. People said the lady who lived there was very quiet and didn't seem to be out very often. Nobody thought anything of it when it went quiet. I think people thought she had moved or they hadn't seen her for a while."
Another Ebor Street resident David Driscoll, 47, said: "Perhaps people should be more neighbourly but some people like the peace and quiet and want to keep themselves to themselves.
“They like the quiet life so nobody gets to know them, you don't see them about so you don't really notice when they aren't seen about anymore. I don't think anybody here knew what had happened at the time."
An inquest heard that utility firm E.ON had been chasing Ms Wood over unpaid bills at her home in Ebor Street, Burnley, since January last year.
Coroners officer PC Bob Wilson told the inquest that the company, after receiving no response to requests for payment, had presumed the property was empty and on October 20, they sent a warrant officer to cut off the supply in the house.
PC Wilson said: “The officer forced entry to the property where he discovered the body of a female sat in the chair.”
After the discovery PC Wilson launched an investigation to discover the identity of the woman.
He said that Burnley Council had confirmed that Ms Wood had lived there since 1993 and had been in receipt of single occupancy discount on her council tax since that time.
He spoke to neighbours who had said that she had no family that they knew of and said she was a very private person who was rarely seen. None of those spoken to could remember when they had last seen her.
Ms Wood had also been expected to attend an outpatient appointment at Royal Blackburn Hospital in June 2011 but had not attended.
Dr Walid Salman, a consultant pathologist at Burnley General Hospital, said that Ms Wood could have been dead for ‘many months’.
He said her cause of death was heart disease.
East Lancashire coroner Richard Taylor, recording a verdict of natural causes, said that Ms Wood had ‘potentially been dead since January’, because no-one had been able to make contact with her for the 10 months leading up to the discovery of her body.
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