A coroner has said he finds it troubling that a reclusive pensioner, who lay dead in his inner city home for at least six months before his body was discovered, appears to have “slipped through the cracks” of society.
Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn also said he found it a little disheartening that in an age of mass communication, no alarm bells triggered with anyone when the elderly bachelor failed to collect his pension or his prescription for almost seven months.
He made his comments after hearing the inquest today into the death of Richard (Ritchie) Scanlan, 84, a bachelor who lived alone at 52 Madden’s Buildings in Blackpool, on the city’s northside.
Mr Scanlan’s badly decomposed body was found by his nephew, Joe O’Mahony, when he called to the house on July 19, 2019.
The body was found next to an electric heater which was still turned on. It was immediately apparent that Mr Scanlan had been dead for some time and death was pronounced at the scene.
The assistant state pathologist, Dr Margot Bolster, said given the advanced state of decomposition, a cause of death could not be ascertained. The coroner returned an open verdict.
Investigating Garda, Eric Stafford, of Watercourse Road Garda station, told the inquest that there was no sign of trauma on the body, and that the house was secure front and rear, with no evidence of a forced entry.
Another nephew, Denis Cronin, who lives in Galway, said he would call to his uncle whenever he visited Cork, and last saw him on Christmas Eve and was concerned about the condition of an ulcer on his leg.
He said his uncle told him that he was getting a taxi to the GP and said he didn’t want any further assistance beyond that.
He described his uncle as a very private man who kept himself to himself, and who didn’t have a lot of contact with his wider family.
The nature of his uncle’s character was that he wouldn’t accept help from outside and the only contact with his family would come if family members initiated it, he said.
He said his uncle didn’t have a landline in the house and while he had used a mobile phone for a while a few years ago, he stopped using it.
“It would be normal that there would be long stretches of time with no contact.”
Mr O’Mahony said while his uncle lived a reclusive lifestyle, he was a man of routine and visited Forde’s pub regularly and placed a few bets on the horses.
“He lived a simple life, I suppose,” he said.
The coroner was also told that Mr Scanlan didn’t have contact with a district nurse or with a meals on wheels organisation.
Garda Stafford established that Mr Scanlan last visited his GP in Blackpool on October 10, 2018, and last filled a prescription in a pharmacy in Blackpool on December 17, 2018.
He said he found a pile of unopened post inside Mr Scanlan’s front door and that the date on the earliest unopened post was January 9.
But he said further enquiries with the Department of Social Protection established that the first pension payment that Mr Scanlan failed to collect was on January 4, 2019.
He told the coroner that neighbours in Madden’s Buildings said they didn’t find it unusual that Mr Scanlan hadn’t been about.
Mr Comyn expressed his sympathies to Mr Scanlan’s family who he said had done their best in the circumstances.
Sergeant Fergus Twomey also extended his sympathies to the family and acknowledged the compassion of the gardaí and firefighters who attended at what he described as a “very disturbing scene” at Madden’s Buildings last July.