‘It really is so sad. It was only when it was said that he had passed away that I realised I hadn’t seen him in quite a while’
The remains of Ray King (57), of Woodlands, Balla, Co Mayo, were discovered in a severe state of decomposition on November 30 last year.
At an inquest yesterday, coroner for Mayo Pat O’Connor, sitting in Swinford Courthouse, heard gardaí were forced to break in to the property after a neighbour raised concerns.
Garda Nicola Flesk, of Castlebar garda station, discovered Mr King’s body under a duvet on the living room couch.
She told the inquest that rubbish, including empty bottles of alcohol and food waste, was piled waist-high in the house to such an extent there was no space to move freely inside the property.
She told how she visited the property following a report from a neighbour who said he had not seen Mr King for about three weeks.
The neighbour said he had noticed lights on in the property all night and found this unusual.
Gda Flesk found Mr King lying on his back on the couch in an advanced state of decomposition.
“He was covered in a duvet from the hips down, and he was decomposed underneath,” she said.
“The house was unkempt. There was rubbish piled waist-high and no place to walk freely.
“The rubbish consisted of empty bottles of alcohol and food waste,” she said.
Gda Flesk contacted the local GP, Dr Jimmy Broderick, who pronounced Mr King dead.
His remains were moved to the mortuary at Mayo University Hospital in Castlebar.
The inquest found that despite extensive efforts by Gda Flesk, no relatives or next of kin of Mr King have been found.
The inquest heard it is believed Mr King arrived in Ireland from the UK about five years ago. He initially lived in Galway but then moved to Mayo, where he was housed by the local authority.
A request was sent through Interpol to track down relatives but this proved fruitless.
The deceased did not list a next of kin in any documentation he supplied to Mayo County Council while looking for housing.
Gda Flesk discovered that Mr King had once been admitted to Mayo University Hospital and listed a Sheila King with an address in Nottingham as his next of kin. However, no person of that name was found at that address.
“All avenues have been exhausted with the little information known about Mr King returning a negative result,” she told the inquest.
“I made local inquiries, and he was reported to be a recluse, preferred his own company and did not engage with the local community,” she added.
The findings of the post-mortem examination were read into the record by pathologist Dr Tamas Nemeth.
The inquest heard Mr King was a 57-year-old single man who was unemployed.
His medical history included alcohol abuse, smoking and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Examination of his remains proved difficult owing to the “severe decomposition” of the skin and internal organs.
There were no signs of injuries or foul play.
Dr Nemeth said the cause of death was natural and, based on clinical history, was most likely due to chronic obstructive airway disease.
It was difficult to give an estimated time of death in cases like Mr King’s, he said.
He said pathologists often have to rely on the size of insect larvae, but it was not an exact measure.
In Mr King’s case, he estimated he was dead for between three and four weeks.
He was buried by Mayo County Council in Castlebar graveyard.
Neighbours of Mr King in the Woodlands estate spoke of their sadness at the circumstances of his death.
One neighbour described the Englishman as polite but solitary.
“He was a loner. He never really bothered with anybody. He stuck to himself. I just knew him to see, really. He had an English accent,” he said.
“He did speak to one neighbour but never really bothered with anyone else.”
Another woman said she often saw him walking to and from the shop.
“It’s so sad they haven’t found his family. I heard he did live in Foxford [near Ballina] for a while before he came here.
“I know he used to drink a lot, but he never caused trouble. He rarely spoke at all.
“It really is so sad. It was only when it was said that he had passed away that I realised I hadn’t seen him in quite a while.
“We have a residents’ committee here, but he never came to any meetings, and he was invited. God love him.”
Mr O’Connor praised the work of Gda Flesk and acknowledged how challenging the experience must have been for her and all those who attended at the scene, including members of the fire brigade and Dr Broderick.