It is troubling that a reclusive pensioner lay dead in his Cork city home for more than six months without any State agencies or services noticing, a coroner has said.
Cork City coroner Philip Comyn said it was disheartening that neither the Department of Social Protection nor the HSE raised any alarms when Richie Scanlan (84) failed to collect his pension or prescription medicines during that time.
Mr Comyn said it was also surprising that no one had noticed in either a pub or a bookmakers frequented weekly by Mr Scanlan that he had not been in.
“I find it troubling that in these days of mass communication and social media this poor man living alone could have slipped through the cracks and be dead for over six months without anyone noticing,” he said.
Mr Comyn made his comments after hearing evidence at the inquest into the death of Mr Scanlan that he had not been seen from last Christmas until he was found by his nephew Joe O’Mahony on July 19th.
The inquest heard evidence from Mr Scanlan's other nephew, Denis Cronin who said his late mother used to regularly call to Mr Scanlan at his home at Madden's Buildings in Blackpool until her death in 2001.
Mr Cronin also visited regularly until he moved to Dublin. After that he called to his uncle during the summer and at Christmas but Mr Scanlan was a very reclusive person who refused a landline phone and could not manage a mobile phone.
“He was a very private man who kept to himself and never attended family events such as weddings - we might meet him at funerals,” said Mr Cronin, adding that any contact was always initiated by the family.
Mr Cronin said his uncle’s only social outlets were calling to Fordes’ Pub on Barrack Street twice a week and going to the bookmakers regularly to back horses. He said the family had tried to persuade Mr Scanlan to engage with services such as meals-on-wheels and that he declined offers to have a public health nurse call to him.
He went to the post office weekly to collect his pension and he called to his local pharmacist to collect prescription medicines. He had also attended his local GP, Dr John Sheehan for an ulcer on his leg.
“Christmas Eve 2018 was the last time I saw him. I was a little concerned for him because he had an ulcer on his leg which didn’t look great and he wasn’t able to maintain his home,” said Mr Cronin. “It would be normal that there would be long stretches of time with no contact.”
Mr O’Mahony said he last saw his uncle alive when he met him on Sullivan’s Quay in July of last year. He said he called to see him at his home in Madden’s Building a year later but got no answer.
He had a key to the house and when he went in, he found his uncle dead on the floor in front of an electric heater, which was still on. He contacted the emergency services and Mr Scanlan was pronounced dead at the scene.
Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said advanced decomposition had made it impossible to establish Mr Scanlan's cause of death but the condition of his body was consistent with him being dead since January of this year.
Mr Comyn returned an open verdict and extended his sympathies to Mr Scanlan’s nephews.