Pensioner's body found in boarded-up flat

JOHN ARLIDGE

Scotland Correspondent

Scottish Homes, Scotland's national housing agency, launched an inquiry yesterday into why a pensioner was found dead in his home two months after it had been boarded up by workmen.

William Smith, 74, who was deaf and had a mental age of 12, was found dead in his tenement flat in the Shettleston area of Glasgow on Thursday.

Scottish Homes had boarded up the flat two months earlier because windows were broken and officials thought it had been abandoned.

Workmen did not search the property before carrying out the work. When neighbours reported a strong smell coming from the flat earlier this week, police broke in and found Mr Smith's body.

Scottish Homes said yesterday it was too early to say whether Mr Smith was alive when the flat's windows and doors were sealed. Richard Burn, director of housing management, said: "We can't say exactly what happened, but clearly something went wrong. We have launched a full and detailed inquiry. Until the findings are known, it would be inappropriate to comment further, other than to stress our obvious concern and determination to avoid any future recurrence of this sort of incident."

Mr Burn explained that the workmen had not entered the flat because Scottish Homes had contacted social services who had assured the agency that Mr Smith had moved house.

Although social workers were supposed to visit Mr Smith regularly, Strathclyde Regional Council admitted that a social worker had last seen him in June. Bob Winter, the council's deputy director of social work, announced an inquiry into the case. "Obviously, we will be looking to see what we can learn from this tragic incident. We will examine our own role very carefully and discuss the situation with all the other agencies involved," he said.

Last night Mr Smith's sister, Catherine Miller, angrily accused Scottish Homes of failing to protect her frail brother. She said: "I was worried when I saw the windows boarded up and I telephoned Scottish Homes. They said that they thought the flat had been abandoned. But they didn't even bother to check. I phoned again and insisted that Willie could be trapped inside, but they just ignored me. I can't believe that everyone was looking for him on the outside when he was there lying on his bed."

A post-mortem examination is being carried out. Strathclyde Police are not treating his death as suspicious.

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