- I'm 57 years old, working full time, wife, mother and grand mother, wishing that I wasn't working full time! I love and enjoy our children and grandchildren, our dogs and cat, our garden and allotment. I love crafts - knitting, sewing, crocheting, patchwork and restoring old furniture. I love to go to country auctions and love thinking that I've got my self a bargain!
Monday, 2 February 2015
Not such good days
Still carrying on about my working life ( I'm sure you must be thinking 'will she ever give up!' - I still have Customer service and anti social behaviour to tell you about yet)
The following story happened before I left arrears, but has nothing to do with arrears. It's quite sad, so if you've had a bereavement recently then please don't read any further - I wouldn't want to upset anyone.
At the beginning of December, 1999 - I took a phone call from a locksmith who had been changing the communal locks at a block of low rise flats but couldn't get hold of one elderly gentleman to give him his new key and he was a little concerned - so I went a walk down to the flats and had the key off the locksmith and went and hammered on the gentleman's door. I peered through the letterbox and there was a funny smell coming from the flat but no sign of life in there, so I went and knocked on the neighbours doors to see if they'd seen the gentleman recently. The gentleman who lived directly underneath said that he hadn't seen him but he'd heard him flushing the loo, and walking about the flat each evening, so I thought that the elderly gentleman must be ok and went and put a note through the door asking him to contact the office to let us know that he was ok and to collect his new key.
The next day I still hadn't heard from him, so I went back down to the flats and still there was no answer and my note hadn't been picked up off the floor where I'd posted it through, the smell was still there so I now started to get a bit uneasy. I went back to the office and took the decision to break in and check that everything was ok. I had to wait for a police officer to come out but they eventually turned up.
Whilst the locksmith was trying to gain entry a blonde lady (I use the term 'lady' loosely here) came out, cigarette in mouth, (Jeremy Kyle watcher - I'm sure you get the picture!) and said 'oh I hope he's ok' and then kept trying to push in front of the police and get right behind the locksmith. Twice one of the coppers moved her out of the way - suddenly the door opened and she made a move again, this time the copper was having none of it and he bodily picked her up and plonked her down away from the door and then grabbed me by the shoulders and I was manhandled into the doorway and sternly told to stand there whilst they went in and to not let any one in.
After a minute or so the coppers came back out and said there was nothing to see and that the blonde lady should go back into her own flat - she did so with a disappointed look on her face. I was taken into the flat and quietly told that the old gentleman had passed away some time ago (I was told afterwards that he'd been dead 2 weeks hence the smell) and was dead in the bedroom. Did I want to go in and see him - the answer was a resounding No, I waited in the lounge whilst they made the relevant calls and arranged for a doctor to come out and pronounce him dead and for an undertaker to call out.
They asked me to search the lounge for anything that would give them the next of kin, but I couldn't find anything - they searched the bedroom - they didn't find anything for the next of kin, but did find over £3.000 in cash - they brought it through to the lounge and I had to count it and sign the one coppers pocket book to say that was the amount found - they said that it would go into the police safe. I've always wondered if the blonde lady knew that there was money in the flat and had been why she was so desperate to get in there that day.
They then said that they would stay with the body and that they would shut the door to the flat after the body had been removed. I left with the keys to the flat and I've often wondered whether they found any more money that didn't go in the police safe that day. (I am cynical aren't I)
The day that I went out there I was wearing a new wax jacket - I never wore it again and it went in the bin - I swear that the smell from that flat was on that coat - every time that I went near the coat I could smell death.
A couple of weeks later, just before Christmas, I had a call from the coroners office to say that they couldn't keep the body any longer, no next of kin had been located and that the Council were going to give him a paupers funeral at the local crematorium the next morning - would I ask if any of the neighbours would like to attend otherwise there would be no one in attendance. I went and asked the neighbours but no one was prepared to go and even the blonde lady didn't want to attend (suppose because she didn't get her hands on his money).
I went back to then office and it was decided that we couldn't let him go with no one there so I would attend along with a Housing Benefit Officer. N. had always worked out the gentleman's housing benefit.
The next day I picked N up and on our way to the crem - I stopped and picked up a bunch of white lilies. We followed the car into the crem and it looked terrible - just the bare coffin. As we got out of the car, the undertaker came running up to me and snatched the lilies out of my hands and then ran back and put them on the coffin, the vicar was just behind him and he said 'Did you know him, what can I say about him?' I said 'No, I never met him, I was just there when we broke in to find his body' N said 'No I just worked his Housing Benefit out for him' The vicar conducted a nice service and me and N. sat there and said a few prayers for someone neither of us had never met, but at least we hadn't let him go without someone there.
After the millennium celebrations, the coroners office contacted me again, would I go into the flat and assist with a search to try and find something that would identify the next of kin. I went but refused to go into the bedroom where he'd died. Strangely the coroners assistant found an old address book in the bedroom that the police officers had searched. Later in the day I heard that contact had been made with a nephew who lived just 2 miles away - when he came into the office he said that he thought it was strange that he hadn't received a Christmas card from the old gent - I thought yes and it didn't cross your mind to take a card to him and check that he was ok did it.
I told the nephew about the money - it took him 2 attempts to get the police to admit that they'd taken money from the property - on the first attempt they absolutely denied taking any money from the flat and on the second attempt after he told them that I'd signed the pocket book - they then 'found' it in the police bank account (stashed away for the next Christmas party?!).
I was lucky - my old gentleman had only been gone 2 weeks in the cold weather - Ian went out to a break-in where the chap had been gone at least 6 weeks in the middle of a hot summer - there was a swarm of flies in the flat and the flies had done what flies and maggots do - Ian said it wasn't pleasant.
I was once called to a murder scene 20 minutes after the body had been found - the police wanted to see our CCTV footage and who'd been in and out of the flats - it turned out that the gentleman was gay and had been out the night before and had picked up a tramp and had took him back to the flat - when he made advances to the tramp - the tramp retaliated by cutting the young man open from his chin to his groin and then from one side of his waist to the other so in a large cross - then to add insult to injury he threw a full tin of gloss paint over the body. I was trying to show the police the CCTV tapes whilst some of the coppers were throwing up outside the block of flats on the cameras - it was that bad. It took them nearly 24 hours to move the body as it was a murder scene.
I think most experienced housing officers will have a story to tell like mine above - it's a sad fact that people live on their own and die on their own - I suppose with the demise of 'good neighbours' it is something that won't change.
I'll move onto the wonderful world of Customer Service and 'anuks' and dead rats next
Speak again soon