A former soldier who died five days after being found sitting in his living room chair had been unable to get up for three weeks, an inquest heard.
Peter Mitchell, 64, was found at his home on Major Street in Accrington by his sister Carole Mitchell on August 12 last year after she had not heard from him since mid-July.
Blackburn Coroners Court heard how the former Royal Corps of Signals soldier had been living in ‘squalid conditions’ with no gas and electricity for around three weeks after he had suffered a fall and was unable to get any help.
Supermarket food delivered on July 22 was still left in the hallway and was ‘rotting’.
Rubbish, including empty bottles of flavoured water and cans of lager and cola, were also found near his chair.
Mr Mitchell, who had previously suffered a stroke after retiring on grounds of ill health, was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital suffering with dehydration but he died on August 17.
Miss Mitchell, formerly of Accrington but now living in North Yorkshire, told the inquest how she had last seen her brother in May but regularly sent him calls and text messages.
The inquest heard how she became ‘so concerned’ after not hearing from him that she called the police on August 11 to request an immediate welfare visit.
Miss Mitchell was asked by the operator if she could visit him herself but said she was unable to because of a debilitating spinal condition. She was then asked to call local hospitals to see if her brother had been admitted.
The inquest heard how she called police again the next day but the call was not answered and rang for three minutes and 40 seconds before she decided to travel to Accrington herself.
She told the inquest: “I opened the door and the smell was absolutely appalling and I was being hit by flies. You can’t imagine it.
“He was just sat in his chair and his eyes were fixed. His hair was everywhere and he had grown facial hair. He was so thin he didn’t look like my brother. He said his legs just went and he couldn’t move or walk. I thought he had had a stroke.
“He had been there quite some time. I went upstairs and there were cobwebs on the toilet so it had not been used for a long time.”
Miss Mitchell told the inquest her brother was unable to swallow food in hospital and needed it to be pureed.
Dr Harry Tucker, of Royal Blackburn Hospital, told the inquest that Mr Mitchell had a long-term wound on his leg that was ‘foul smelling’ and ‘infested with maggots’.
He said: “It was quite a shock to see it for the first time. I have not seen one to that extent before.”
When asked if getting to hospital earlier would have made a difference, he said: “It’s difficult to say. I probably think maybe not, but in this context the sooner he got into hospital the better.”
The inquest heard from pathologist Dr Richard Prescott who said Mr Mitchell had a ‘number of co-morbidities’ including bronchopneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and severe heart disease which contributed to his death.
Dr Prescott added: “By the time he arrived in hospital, the chances were not great. If he had been seen earlier he had more of a chance to get help but I couldn’t say if he would still be alive.”
Coroner Michael Singleton ruled Mr Mitchell died from natural causes.
He told the family that despite the incident being referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, he was ‘satisfied on the balance of probabilities that does not have any bearing on the ultimate outcome’.
He said: “It seems to me he ultimately succumbed to a natural disease process following its course.”
‘We don’t want anyone else to suffer like this’
Carole Mitchell said after the inquest that she ‘hoped lessons would be learned’ by the authorities, but paid tribute to her brother.
She said: “We don’t want anyone to go through the trauma we have.
“He was so embarrassed when we came in and found him.
“He was ashamed to be sat there like that and he shouldn’t have had to live another day in those conditions.
“He was a fighter to the end. He had a great sense of humour and used to do ghost hunts.”
Miss Mitchell said her brother was ‘very independent and didn’t like a fuss’.
She revealed that the former Express Gifts worker had made plans before his death to visit her and was going to watch a meteor shower.
In a statement, the IPCC said: “The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has concluded an investigation into Lancashire Constabulary’s response to a request to check the welfare of a 64-year-old man prior to his death and shared its conclusions with his family and the police force.
“Peter Mitchell was found in a poor state of health, by a family member, at his home in Accrington on August 12, 2015.
“He was taken to the Royal Blackburn Hospital but died five days later.
“The IPCC began an investigation following a complaint, to Lancashire Constabulary, regarding the response to a request to check Mr Mitchell’s welfare on August 11.
“The IPCC is considering the force’s response to the report’s conclusions and will publish its findings in due course.”
In a statement Lancashire Police said: “Our thoughts remain with Mr Mitchell’s family and friends at what is clearly a difficult time.
“This matter was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission as a mandatory referral and we will of course act on any recommendations which follow.
“Other than to say once again that our sympathies remain with Mr Mitchell’s loved ones it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time.”