Woman may have lain dead for five years

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The Independent Online

The body of a pensioner may have lain undiscovered for five years in a city centre flat, it was revealed today.

Tests are being carried out to identify the body of the woman, named locally as Isabella Purvis, who would have been 90 this year.

Officers forced their way into the flat in the Canonmills area of Edinburgh after a neighbour reported water dripping through the ceiling.

The owners of a nearby florist told the Edinburgh Evening News they had not seen the elderly woman since 2004.

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders police said: "Police were called to an address in Rodney Street in Edinburgh on 30 June, after concerns were raised over an elderly resident.

"On entering the premises, officers discovered the body of a 90-year-old woman.

"There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding her death, and a report has been sent to the Procurator Fiscal."

Giovanni Cilia, who owns the Fioritalia florist below Ms Purvis's flat, said he was shocked at how long it took to find her.

He said: "How did no one notice the smell, or wonder where she was?

"I heard there was a big pile of letters and bills behind the door.

"I used to see her walk past the shop maybe four times a week. She would often go across the street and pick up litter to clean the place up."

Mr Cilia, who has run the shop for 20 years, added: "It's shocked everyone here. When I saw her she looked quite fit and healthy for her age.

"She used to wear boots and would often carry a rucksack like she enjoyed going for walks."

Edinburgh City Council confirmed it was contacted about a leak from the property but said Ms Purvis was not a council tenant.

Douglas McLellan, of Age Concern and Help the Aged in Scotland, said: "This is a tragic case but perhaps not as surprising as people think.

"If she was not receiving care treatment from anyone and not receiving social care, then the likelihood of being found quickly is minimal.

"The question is not just about public services finding people and neighbours checking up, it's about how elderly people themselves are living their lives.

"If they're leading private lives, then how are people going to find them?"

Mr McLellan urged people to take more notice of their neighbours and "knock on doors" if there is any concern.

He added: "Society has fractured. We're not in the same units as we used to be.

"People might not phone their own gran more than once a month."