Pensioner lay dead at home for six years after council failed to check on him

A pensioner’s ‘skeletal’ remains were only found six years after his death when gas safety inspectors forced entry to his flat.

Robert Alton, who lived in social housing in Bolton, is believed to have died alone in 2017 at the age of 70.

His housing provider, Bolton at Home, continued to receive his rent through housing benefit.

Bolton Council reportedly did not act after Mr Alton’s council tax went into arrears after 2017.

Bolton at Home did not alert authorities after knocking on his door to try and arrange gas safety checks ten times over the years and receiving no answer.

It eventually obtained a court order to enter, with officials using an angle grinder to cut through the flat’s security chain.

They found a knee-high stack of post behind the door and Mr Alton’s body at the top of the stairs.

A TV guide for 4 May 2017 was left open with reading glasses sat on the page, while food in the flat had expiry dates around the same time.

The officials called police, and neighbours said they had not seen anyone coming in or out of the property for at least five years.

No relatives have been traced despite a national appeal in the wake of his death.

A coroner recorded an open verdict after agreeing with police that there were no signs of foul play.

In a statement after the inquest into Mr Alton’s death, Bolton at Home admitted it ‘didn’t go far enough’ in checking on the pensioner while insisting its actions ‘met legal requirements’.

It said: ‘Everyone at Bolton at Home has been deeply shocked by this and we realise it will concern and upset people to learn his body remained undiscovered for such a long time.

‘It’s completely unacceptable to us that something like this has happened, and we’ve taken action to reduce the risk of it happening again.

‘We changed our procedure in July 2022, and we now immediately begin the process of seeking access to someone’s home via a warrant in instances where we cannot contact them to arrange a gas safety check.

‘It was this change and subsequent review of previous instances that ultimately led to us seeking a warrant to access Robert’s home and discovering his body.’

Bolton Council has promised to hold an internal inquiry to identify if and how it had failed to spot something was amiss.

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