A USUALLY tidy pensioner whose body was found lying naked in her flat surrounded by broken furniture died from natural causes.
Joan Ege was discovered by her neighbour Ronald Reeves on the floor of her High Trees home in Carew Road on December 10 last year and an inquest into her death earlier this month saw her family voice their suspicions that a third party may been involved.
Despite the fact that there were no signs of forced entry or anything having been taken, the pensioner’s nephew, Roderick Morgan, said he believed police were wrong to immediately rule out outside involvement.
He told the coroner that he was “at a loss to begin to understand what caused her death,” and revealed that the woman who lived in the flat next door to his aunt had seen a host of belongings disappear – the relevance being that she left a spare key in the same cubby hole as his 86-year-old relative.
His theory was that someone could have entered his aunt’s home using her spare key and somehow contributed to her death but without leaving any obvious signs of forced entry.
Mr Roderick said the family had found the death both “mysterious” and “disconcerting” and added that he and his mum had found it difficult to comprehend why his his aunt would have been naked, and why a table was broken and nearby cutlery drawers emptied.
However, police inspector Vivienne Johnson explained that officers were certain that the death, while strange, was not the result of anything sinister.
She told the inquest that police had found watches, jewellery and money left on the side in the flat and that there were none of the usual tell-tale signs of a struggle – despite the disarray found at the scene.
Of particular interest was the fact that the clothes were neatly folded and not damaged and that there were no visible signs of injuries.
A pathologist from the DGH then tried to explain why she may have felt the need to remove her clothes. Keith Ramesar said the cause of death was likely to have been hypothermia and that the fact the pensioner suffered from hypothyroidism would also have contributed.
He said that Miss Ege could have got light-headed when standing up and fallen. From there she may have tried to use the nearby drawers as a way of getting back on her feet, hence the apparent disturbance.
And he added that when someone suffers from hypothermia, their body would begin to heat its core rather than extremities. When that is no longer possible, the blood rushes back to all parts of the body, causing the sufferer to feel hot and flushed.
This could have explained the nakedness and the inquest heard there were similar incidents which saw skiers or mountain climbers strip off while dying in the snow.
Mr Roderick was not totally convinced – citing the unusual mess in the front room as a factor which did not add up – and his mum lamented, “It does just not make sense. It does not look like we will ever know.”
Inspector Johnson tried her best to allay their concerns. Taking the stand for a second time, she said, “This was a catastrophic event. I believe she was fighting for her life, not another person.
“She was struggling with her own body. It was unfortunate that it was not a peaceful death.”
Coroner Alan Craze, recording a verdict of death by natural causes, said, “I fully accept this is a puzzling death [but] I have heard absolutely no evidence of third party involvement.”