A CORONER wants authorities to be allowed to enter the homes of obsessive hoarders after hearing how a woman was found dead beneath a 3ft pile of rubbish in her living room.
An inquest into 59-year-old Linda Parkes’ death heard waste filled every room in her house “from floor to ceiling”.
Firefighters, called after reports of a blaze at the terraced house, had to squeeze through 2ft gaps in the rubbish to search each room.
It took three days to find Miss Parkes’ body. Currently, local authorities only have the powers to enter private houses where they believe there is a risk to public health – but not when they suspect a fire hazard.
Paul McCandless, Derby and South Derbyshire Assistant Deputy coroner, said: “I will write to the relevant Department of State, as that is something that should be given proper consideration to.
“Local authorities should have the power to enter the house if they have reasonable cause to believe that there is hoarding going on within the property and one that does pose a fire risk.”
David Paul, the station manager at Ascot Drive fire station, was one of the first at the incident, which happened in Wellington Street, Long Eaton, on January 14 last year.
He told the inquest: “Access to the building was very restricted. If you can imagine, we came through the front door and it was like a crawl-way. We wouldn’t have been able to stand up at that depth. We had to crawl through the top of the doorways to get in the rooms.
“The living room was a solid mess – you’d just be crawling and your back would be touching the ceiling. In the kitchen, the mass was about five feet deep.
“There was rubbish bags, human excrement in carrier bags, rotting food and rodent droppings. My suspicions were that the bathroom in the property was not in use and hadn’t been for some time.”
An investigation found that the fire had started in the kitchen after waste material which was piled by the oven toppled over on to the naked flame from the hob ring which Miss Parkes lit to warm her home.
A post-mortem examination showed Miss Parkes died from inhaling fumes from the fire. Recording a verdict of death by misadventure, Mr McCandless said: “It was known that Linda Parkes was someone who had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and who would be referred to as a hoarder.”