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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 September 2006, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Body left in bed for five months
Howard Lewis
Howard Lewis had cared for his wife when she had Alzheimer's disease
A pensioner lived with the remains of his late wife for five months because he could not come to terms with the shock of her death, an inquest heard.

The mummified remains of Howard Lewis' wife Elizabeth, 79, were found in a bed in the house in Pontypridd in November after neighbours called police.

Mr Lewis told officers she was sleeping before he was arrested for concealing a body. He was not prosecuted.

Coroner Philip Walters recorded an open verdict at the Pontypridd inquest.

The inquest heard how Mr Lewis, who had been married for 34 years, carried on as normal following her death.

Mr Lewis, who had cared for his wife for the last five years of her life because she had Alzheimer's disease, was said to be unable to come to terms with her death at their home in Graigwen.

He would go in and touch her face at night to say goodnight to her
Det Con Rachel Walsh

Neighbours became concerned after not seeing Mrs Lewis for some time. They called police, who visited the house on 11 November where they found Mrs Lewis' remains.

Cold house

Pc Danny MacNamara told the inquest as soon as he entered the house he noticed a strong smell which "reminded me of a decomposing body".

He also said the house was extremely cold with "numerous" air fresheners scattered about. The curtains were also drawn.

The officer and a colleague went upstairs towards the bedroom where they saw the figure of a body under the blanket.

"I said to Mr Lewis 'She's dead isn't she?' and he replied 'Yes'," he said.

"I said 'For how long?' and he said 'About five months'".

Mr Lewis was arrested and during questioning he told officers that he awoke one morning to find his wife in bed breathing strangely before going still.

Det Con Rachel Walsh told the inquest that instead of phoning for an ambulance, Mr Lewis went to the local shop to buy a newspaper and seemingly carried on with everyday life.

"He hadn't had any visitors and she wasn't missed at that point until Pc MacNamara called to the house," she said. "He would go in and touch her face at night to say goodnight to her."

Det Con Walsh said Mr Lewis had no real explanation as to why he hadn't informed the authorities of his wife's death.

"My general feeling is that he didn't want to let his wife go."

A post-mortem examination revealed Mrs Lewis had been dead for several months.

Although Mr Lewis was arrested, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it was not in the public interest to prosecute.

In a statement released in March, the CPS said: "Mr Lewis described how his wife sadly died of natural causes one Saturday morning several months ago and said that he could not explain why he had not called a doctor or ambulance, or sought the assistance of neighbours."

At the inquest on Wednesday, the coroner said: "I think our sympathies must go out to Mr Lewis.

"Obviously he has lost his wife and is totally shocked by the situation and really didn't know what to do about it.

"I'm quite satisfied that, although the cause of death remains unascertained, there is clearly nothing to suggest a criminal offence."


SEE ALSO
No charge after wife's body found
03 Mar 06 |  South East Wales
Wife's body in house 'for months'
16 Nov 05 |  South East Wales

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