Norwich woman died alone and without support, inquest told

It was 'deeply disturbing' that a woman died alone and without any support in the heart of Norwich, a coroner said yesterday.

Dawn Sword, 70, is thought to have died 'a considerable time' before police broke into her terraced house in Branford Road, off Sprowston Road, on June 4, the Norwich inquest heard.

The inquest was told neighbours finally alerted police after growing concerned about the former shop assistant's welfare.

Mr Armstrong told the inquest, attended by Miss Sword's three female cousins, that when police forced entry into the house, there was a large number of flies at the windows and many months' worth of mail piled up at the front door.

Neighbours told police Miss Sword was a recluse and hoarder who had worked at Langley's toyshop in the Royal Arcade, Norwich, up to the end of last year.

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Mr Armstrong said a post-mortem examination was carried out but the cause of death was unascertained because she had been dead for some time.

Mr Armstrong said: 'There is no evidence she had any meaningful contact with anyone for about six months.

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'She died alone without support or companionship, which is deeply disturbing, as she lived in a densely populated part of the city.

'Of course I recognise and accept Dawn had chosen to live an isolated existence. Nevertheless, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight the work being undertaken by Age UK Norwich to start up social networks in communities to try and stop elderly people becoming isolated and beyond reach, although Dawn may not have been responsive to such help.'

He recorded a verdict stating that there was insufficient evidence available to reliably give a cause of death, but added there was no evidence of any trauma or third party involvement in her death.

At the opening of the inquest in June, Phil Wells, chief executive officer of Age UK Norwich, called for more people to get involved in setting up the network groups through which people can help their neighbours and reduce isolation.

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