Dead for months before being found: Coroner 'troubled' by two similar cases in Cork in space of a week 

Dead for months before being found: Coroner 'troubled' by two similar cases in Cork in space of a week 

George Harrington: Dead at home for several months before it was discovered.

THE city coroner in Cork has raised concerns that two inquests have been held in a week into the deaths of people who were dead in their homes for several months before being found.

Philip Comyn made his comments following the inquest of 78-year-old George Harrington, who was found dead at his home at 1A Imaal Court in the Glen on May 14, six months after he was last seen.

Mr Comyn said today: “I find it troubling that last week, I had a similar case to this.

“That was of a man who had cut himself off from his family to a certain extent and I think that is what happened here too.”

Mr Harrington’s daughter, Mary Cullinane, was the last person to see him, having collected him from the Mercy University Hospital on November 14.

She told the court she spoke to him by phone the following day in the last contact she had with him. She also said that Mr Harrington contacted his grown children whenever he wanted them.

They would text him but Ms Cullinane said it was not unusual for him not to respond.

She said she had told him in their last meeting to keep in better contact with them as they had not been aware that he had been in hospital until Ms Cullinane received a call to collect him.

The court was told that he suffered from diabetes and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. He was not a drinker.

His body was found at his home on May 14. The inquest heard workers went to the flat on May 14 to cut off his electricty supply.

On the same date, his son Les went to his father’s home and noted moss growing under his father’s car, indicating that it had not been used in some time. His tax and NCT discs were also out of date, which his family said was out of character for him.

He also saw letters after building up inside the front door. He raised the alarm and Garda Michael Nagle from Mayfield garda station went to the scene. Entry to the house had to be forced and Garda Nagle said he found Mr Harrington dead in the kitchen. He was dressed in his pyjamas and night gown.

Milk in the house had an expiry date of November 23, an opened letter was stamped on November 14, and the oldest unopened post was from November 19. His last pension collection from Blackpool post office was on November 16 and he paid his most recent electricity bill on October 8. His last prescription was filled on November 14.

He also marked off each day on a calendar. The last date marked off was November 18.

A statement from his GP, Dr Conor McNiece, concluded: “I was very sad to hear he died alone and remained undiscovered for so long.”

An open verdict was recorded into his death as the court was told that it was impossible to definitively establish a cause of death for Mr Harrington because his body was in a state of decomposition.

However, pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said it is likely he died of cardiac arrest. On October 17, the same court also recorded an open verdict into the death of 84-year-old Ritchie Scanlan, who was found dead in his home at Madden’s Buildings in Blackpool, almost seven months after he died.

After delivering his verdict yesterday, Mr Comyn said Mr Harrington was someone who was involved in the community up to a year or two before his death. The inquest heard that he had been involved in the community and was in the Cork City Partnership up until recent years, when he was diagnosed with COPD.

The inquest was also told that he lived above the Glen Resource Centre, and had weekly took in and out the bins for the centre. He also checked the centre’s CCTV footage regularly.

Mr Comyn said that he lived over the resource centre which is attended by people every day.

He continued: “He attended a doctor, called to the same post office every week to collect his pension and went to the same chemist to collect his medicine. He would have been out and about. Yet at the end of the day, nobody saw or realised that he was missing. He became enveloped in a cloak of anonymity and I find it disconcerting.”

He said no alarm bells had rung about his whereabouts.

He concluded: “Nobody seems to have missed him. That is probably the biggest tragedy of this inquest.”

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