Gardaí investigating the deaths of an elderly English couple at their remote bungalow in south Tipperary are hoping that toxicology reports will help establish how they died.
Investigators believe that retired cruise liner captain Nicholas Smith (82) and his wife Hilary (79) may have died in either November or December 2020 and lain undiscovered at their bungalow at Rossane, some 4km from Cloneen village near Fethard, for more than 18 months.
Chief State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan carried out postmortems on both deceased at University Hospital Waterford for more than nine hours on Tuesday, but it is understood that the initial results are inconclusive and further tests, including toxicology tests, will be necessary.
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The bodies were discovered about 1pm on Monday afternoon when gardaí called to carry out a welfare check on the couple after neighbours became concerned and they found the body of Mr Smith in a bedroom and the body of Ms Smith in the livingroom.
Although gardaí are awaiting the results of tests on samples taken by Dr Mulligan at postmortem in the hope of establishing the cause of death, they believe from an examination of milk cartons and other perishable items in the fridge that the couple died in November or December 2020.
They have also established the Smiths told several people in the area around November 2020 that they were moving to France, and they paid a local man in advance to continue cutting their grass, leading many people to believe that they had left the area and the house was unoccupied.
“We are very much keeping an open mind on the two deaths until we get the full postmortem results, but we believe that they died towards the end of 2020 when there was a hard Covid lockdown which may have contributed to people thinking they had left the country,” said a source.
It is understood that the couple, who had both worked on cruise liners in Australia for many years, were in receipt of foreign pensions, which continued to be paid into an Irish bank account from which standing orders were paid out to pay for electricity and heating oil.
Gardaí have already spoken to neighbours and they hope to speak to anyone who may have visited the house over the past 18 months or so including those delivering post and others who may have made oil deliveries to the house, believing it was unoccupied.
While gardaí are keeping an open mind on the deaths of the couple the house has been declared a crime scene. Garda sources have stressed this is a precautionary measure until the full results of the postmortem become available, which will determine the course of the investigation.
It is understood there was no sign of forced entry at the house, where the blinds were all pulled down, while Garda forensic experts have so far found no weapons or implements that would suggest the couple were the victims of violent foul play.
Door-to-door inquiries have established the Smiths were a very private couple who kept to themselves but gardaí are hoping to learn more about them from a technical examination of letters and documents found in the house including whether they had any medical conditions.
It is thought that the couple did not have any children but gardaí are liaising with police forces in the UK and Australia as they try to establish when they left the UK for Australia and whether they have any close next of kin in either country.
Gardaí have repeated their appeal to anyone who may have any information that might assist them in their investigation into the deaths to contact Clonmel Garda station on (052) 6177640, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.