Calls for neighbours to help each other out, after death of Norwich woman

People are being urged to look out for their neighbours after the tragic death of a woman in Norwich whose body may have lain undiscovered for several weeks.

Dawn Sword, 70, is thought to have died 'a considerable time' before police broke into her terraced house and discovered her body on June 4, an inquest heard yesterday .

The inquest was told that neighbours in Branford Road, off Sprowston Road, finally alerted police after growing concerned about her welfare.

Norfolk coroner William Armstrong earlier this week issued an urgent plea for help in tracing her family, but no-one came forward.

The tragic event has prompted Phil Wells, chief executive officer of Age UK Norwich, to call for more people to get involved in setting up groups in their communities to prevent the vulnerable and elderly becoming isolated.

The charity is currently working to try and set up groups through which people can help their neighbours and reduce isolation.

He said: 'The only positive from her death is that it may act as motivation for other people to try and understand where we, as a community, are going wrong.

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'We are seeking to create a better social network within the community. A lot of people fear isolation in later life, and as they become less mobile, it is easy to become isolated.

'As isolation is a big problem, we are working with neighbourhood groups to set up social networks around the community, which people can plug into, and help neighbours.

'Active retired people can make a big difference in the community in setting up these networks and transport schemes to help isolated people.'

People who lived near Miss Sword in Branford Road said yesterday that they had seen her around, but did not really know her.

One woman, who did not wish to be named, said: 'We were very sad at her death. It was not unusual not to see her for several days, but as this was more than that, we got in touch with the police as we were growing concerned about her.

'It is sad that we longer live in the kind of society where people know their neighbours and look out for them.'

Miss Sword's home was boarded up yesterday and the terraced house was heavily overgrown with ivy.

Ward city councillor Julie Brociek-Coulton agreed it was sad reflection of the times.

She said: 'It's very sad that this poor lady died in such tragic circumstances.

'It is such a shame that she had no-one to look out for her. Nowadays, people often do not know their neighbours and don't look out for vulnerable or elderly people in the community.

'Hopefully when the Silver Rooms in Norwich is converted into a community centre there will be activities and stuff for elderly people to get involved in, so they are not so isolated.'

Norfolk coroner William Armstrong told the inquest that Miss Sword was a retired shop assistant and that the cause of death had not yet been established.

Mr Armstrong said at the inquest: 'It was not clear how long she had been dead before police found the body, but it seems likely that she had died a considerable time before.'

The inquest was adjourned to a date to be fixed.

If you would like to get involved in Age UK Norwich's social network groups contact Bob Russell on 01603 496333.