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A housing association has apologised after a man’s dead body was discovered in his home after six years.
Robert Alton, 70, was discovered dead in his flat on Hemsworth Road in Bolton on March 9th, 2023. A coroner ruled he was believed to have died six years earlier in 2017.
The retired bookkeeper’s skeletal remains were only discovered after housing association officials from Bolton at Home had to force entry into the property to carry out a gas check, an inquest heard.
Officials entered Mr Alton’s home to find a half a metre pile of unopened mail and his body on the floor at the top of the stairs.
Also found at the property were food items with expiration dates in 2017, and a pair of reading glasses placed on a TV guide dated May 4th 2017.
When Mr Alton’s body was found a police investigation was subsequently carried out — which concluded there were no suspicious circumstances.
Coroner, Peter Sigee, ruled at an inquest last week that the ‘appropriate conclusion is an open conclusion’.
Bolton at Home has issued an apology for the ‘opportunities we missed’ and offer ‘heartfelt condolences’.
The horrific discovery has highlighted issues of loneliness and neglect within our society.
Bolton at Home group CEO, Noel Sharpe, says everyone at the housing association has been left ‘deeply shocked’ by the incident, and realises it will ‘concern and upset people’ to learn that Alton’s body remained undiscovered for such a long time.
He admitted that it’s ‘completely unacceptable’ that something like this has happened, and assures that it’s taken action to ‘reduce the risk of it happening again’.
In a statement, Mr Sharpe added: “The reason we didn’t discover Robert’s death for so long is because our previous procedure, while meeting legal requirements, wasn’t strong enough to prevent something like this happening.
“We’d made Robert’s home gas safe in June 2017 by turning off the gas supply externally after we were unable to contact him to arrange the annual gas safety check, and following this, we made many attempts to contact Robert over a number of years to arrange gas safety checks.
“[But] it’s clear that the action taken by us to understand why we couldn’t contact him didn’t go far enough, and opportunities were missed in spotting that something was potentially wrong.
“We should have done more to check on Robert’s welfare.”
Bolton at Home changed its procedure in July 2022, and now claims to begin the process of seeking access to a tenant’s home via a warrant in instances where it is unable to contact them to arrange a gas safety check.