‘Skeletal remains’ of man dead for six years found in home after gas test visit

A pensioner is thought to have lain dead in his home for six years, his skeletal remains only found this year when housing officials forced entry to carry out a gas test.

An inquest heard yesterday (Wednesday, May 10) retired bookkeeper Robert Alton is believed to have died in May 2017 aged 70.

Landlord Bolton at Home obtained a court order to enter the Bolton address on March 9 this year.

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After officials forced entry, cutting the security chain with a grinder, they were met with post piled 50cm high. Then they found Mr Alton's body at the top of the stairs to his flat, MailOnline reported.

Inside, police found food with 2017 expiry dates as well as a TV guide for May 4, 2017. One of the pages was open with reading glasses on top.

Neighbours hadn't seen anyone there for five years, Greater Manchester Police Det Sgt Dominic Beaver said. There were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Mr Alton's death.

His rent was still being paid via housing benefit prior to his discovery. Council tax had been paid until 2017 and had been in arrears since.

Bolton at Home last spoke to him in April 2017, the inquest heard. The visit this year only came following a change in procedure prompting officials to obtain the access order.

Before then, the inquest heard officials made 15 visits, sent dozens of letters and made phone calls in a failed attempt to organise a gas test.

No action was taken when there was no response to these attempts.

Pathologist Dr Patrick Waugh said it was "not possible to determine a cause of death".

Coroner Peter Sigee said: "On the balance of probabilities Mr Alton died in May 2017. I’m satisfied the appropriate conclusion is an open conclusion."

Noel Sharpe, chief executive of landlord of Bolton At Home, told the hearing: "We offer our heartfelt condolences to Robert’s loved ones, friends and neighbours and apologise to them for the opportunities we missed in finding out why we couldn’t contact Robert.

"In hindsight, we should have spotted sooner that something was potentially wrong."

Bolton At Home says it now applies for an access warrant immediately when a tenant cannot be contacted regarding a gas test.

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