Pensioner’s body lies undiscovered for three years

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The body of a pensioner who died in his Edinburgh flat is thought to have gone undiscovered for more than three years.

Police had to break down the door to the Leith home and wade through piles of unopened mail to reach the badly decomposed remains of Henry Summers.

The tenement in Leith. Picture: Greg Macvean

The tenement in Leith. Picture: Greg Macvean

An officer made the grim discovery in the front room of Mr Summers’ top-floor flat on Wednesday morning after his GP surgery raised concerns that they hadn’t seen him in some time.

Forensics tests are still to be carried out but it is understood police believe the corpse could have lain undisturbed for more than three years.

A neighbour in the same Easter Road tenement block said he hadn’t seen him since February 2012.

The man, who had lived alongside the pensioner for more than a decade, said: “I had to wrack my brains about when I had last seen him and I worked out it has been about three years ago.

“He was being stretchered out in a breathing mask and he looked very grey. I think maybe he’d had a heart attack but he was conscious.”

Some time later, he knocked on Mr Summers’ door and peered through the letter box when there was no answer.

He said: “Opening the letter box, I smelled a musty smell and something that might have been food going off but nothing to suggest the reek of a corpse. I now realise that must have been him. I assumed he had gone to live with family.”

It is thought his bills may have continued to have been paid by direct debit after his death.

The neighbour said: “He might have died within a matter of days or weeks of coming out of hospital. That would put his death at around February 2012.

“The policeman said they received a call from his GP surgery asking what had happened to this man. They went to the house and got no answer. He came back with a locksmith, but it was so long since the door had been opened they had to go and get a battering ram.

“It seems he was discharged from hospital six days after going in back in February 2012 and then he just drops off the map. Something has gone awry.”

Mr Summers, who was thought to be unmarried and retired with no known relatives, was often spotted going out to buy milk and a newspaper.

Neighbours remembered him as a “well-dressed” and “sociable” man in his mid-sixties to early-seventies who whistled going up and down the stairwell.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police were called to a property on Easter Road following reports of concern for the safety of the male occupant.

“The body of a man was found inside – the death is not being treated as suspicious and a report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.”

In July 2009, the body of an elderly woman was found in her city flat after up to five years. Police found her after a neighbour reported water dripping through the ceiling from her flat above to the council. A spate of grisly finds in 1994 prompted Edinburgh council to launch an emergency programme of contacting council tenants who lived alone.