Missing pensioner’s body found in flat two weeks after council alerted

An elderly woman was found dead in her flat almost two weeks after the alarm was raised by a concerned neighbour.

Two weeks before her body was discovered, an email about the missing pensioner had been sent to Bristol City Council, the Bristol Post reports.

The woman, believed to be in her 70s, was found in her flat by police officers at around 9am on April 21.

According to her neighbour it was three weeks after she died.

Tenants of Barlands House in Henbury called police after growing concerned because of a “bad smell”, which was reported to Bristol City Council on April 12.

The council initially said there is a delay in a death being reported when a person lives alone, but has since admitted that no one visited the flat after the email raising the alarm was sent.

A housing officer was due to visit the woman’s flat this week – almost a month after the woman is believed to have passed away.

Bristol Live has seen an email sent by a neighbour to five council email addresses, including housing officers, and a councillor for Henbury, in which the tenant said he believed the woman had passed away.

He did not receive any response to these concerns.

The council initially said the residents’ concerns were "acted upon" because the caretaker visited the flat and added an officer was booked in to visit the property this week.

It has since emerged that a caretaker visited the flat before the email was sent to the council and that no council workers visited the property before the woman was found dead by police.

The neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “The last email [I sent] was on April 12.

"I emailed them saying there’s a bad smell coming from my neighbour’s flat, I’m really concerned about her. I haven’t seen her. They did nothing.

“I got in touch with the caretaker and I said ‘I’m worried she’s passed away’. The caretaker looked through the letter box and said ‘no she’ll be okay’ and that was it.

"A couple of weeks later police came along and bashed the door in. She’s been dead for three weeks. I feel angry and disgusted by this.”

Avon and Somerset Police confirmed officers attended an address in Standfast Road, Henbury, on Saturday where they found the body of a woman.

Barlands House is a 15-storey council tower block consisting of 86 homes.

The neighbour said: “I didn’t know her at all well. She’s been here longer than me. She kept herself to herself.

"She didn’t seems to speak to anybody much. I used to take parcels for her. She didn’t really want much to do with anyone. I never saw friends or family.

“I don’t know how old she was. She’s got to be in her 70s, I would have thought.

“I’ve always had problems with the council because of things like anti-social behaviour, drug dealing, dogs fouling.

“I have been living in this building for 15 years. I’ve always emailed and try to ring up about concerns but they never respond. They never do anything.

“I found this very upsetting. I live here, this is my neighbour, I wished her well. I’ve been concerned for her welfare for a long time.”

A spokesperson for the council said on Tuesday: "We were very sorry to discover that someone had died within one of our flats, and our thoughts are with the lady’s friends and family at this sad time.

"Unfortunately in cases where people live alone there is sometimes a delay in the death being reported to us.

"A caretaker visited the property following a report we received but was not able to gain access. Police were then called by a neighbour and they forced entry.

"When we receive reports such as this we allocate to the housing officer to investigate.

"However, if someone specifically reports the smell to be serious then we will respond much quicker, and in cases of suspected dead bodies, the police are called to undertake a health and wellbeing visit to decide if it is appropriate to gain entry to the property."

Today the council confirmed that the caretaker had visited the flat before the resident had sent the email further raising the alarm.

Bristol City Council added that there is a 15-day time frame for responding to emails and that a housing officer was due to visit this week because the caretaker had no response from the woman when he visited.

The authority says it receives hundreds of reports of bad smells and that it is not an indicator of a dead body.

It also pointed out that the address is not a supported housing block and there is no additional care support.

A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Police said: “We were called to an address in Standfast Road, Bristol on Saturday, April 21, where the body of a woman was found. The death is not being treated as suspicious and a file has been handed to the coroner.”

The neighbour said: “I want to tell the reality of living in social housing in 2018 and what it’s really like. A lot of this never sees the light of day.”

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