Man without heating lay dead for days

AN elderly man who lay dead in his home for at least two days did not have central heating and died of hypothermia during a cold snap in January, an inquest heard yesterday.

James Cullen, aged 78, of Healy Street, Dublin, was found lying on the sitting room floor of his home by gardaí on the morning of January 22, 2010, after a neighbour raised the alarm.

The elderly man, who lived alone, was partially clothed and the backdoor of his home was ajar. He had an outdoor toilet.

The death was initially treated as a suspicious death by gardaí, but the inquest was told that a postmortem by the state pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy, found no evidence of an assault.

Prof Cassidy found that the circumstances in which the deceased was found and the findings of the autopsy, including reddening of the skin, were highly suggestive of hypothermia.

Mr Cullen had a number of broken ribs and injuries to his face including bruising over his right eyebrow and to the bridge of his nose, the back of the trunk and his elbows, which were suggestive of a collapse, the inquest heard.

The autopsy found Mr Cullen had a severe degree of heart disease.

“It looks as if he probably had a cardiac event that caused him to collapse and he became hypothermic because he was lying there for some time,” said coroner Dr Brian Farrell.

Last night, Age Action Ireland spokesperson Eamon Timmins, said elderly people needed to be made aware that when room temperature drops below 16C, there is increased risk of respiratory illness such as pneumonia. When room temperature drops below 12C, the blood thickens, and there is increased risk of a cardiovascular event such as heart attack or stroke.

“The challenge to all communities is to look around and see who might be at risk. Even a couple of cold nights back-to-back can be dangerous,” Mr Timmins said.

Yesterday the coroner recorded hypothermia as cause of death and a verdict of death by misadventure.

Dublin City Coroner’s Court heard Mr Cullen was dead for at least two days before his was found.

His neighbour Laurena Loane told the inquest she last saw Mr Cullen on the morning of Tuesday, January 19, walking along the North Circular Road.

Ms Loane noticed the light was on in Mr Cullen’s house over the next couple of days, which she described as very unusual.

He did not have central heating at home, just a coal fire, the court heard.

On Friday, after she and a man delivering coal failed to get a response after knocking on Mr Cullen’s door, Ms Loane informed another neighbour whose daughter rang the gardaí.

Gardaí entered the house through a back door, which was ajar and found Mr Cullen’s body.


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