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Lonely death shocks Sydney

Otago Daily Times
6 July 2011


When Natalie Wood died in her home in a trendy inner Sydney suburb, nobody noticed for almost a decade.

Ms Wood's neighbours thought the elderly woman had moved out years ago, leaving the house empty.

Utility companies cut off her power and water. Centrelink continued to pay her benefits but her bank account remained untouched.

She had stopped speaking to her one remaining relative in 2003, the result of a family feud.

Police won't reveal exactly what happened, but a few days ago her sister-in-law was prompted to contact police, resulting in the grisly discovery of Ms Wood's skeletal remains on the floor of an upstairs bedroom in a Surry Hills terrace on Tuesday afternoon.

"I do think it's unusual (that no one had noticed)... I think it's very, very sad," said Superintendent Zoran Dzevlan.

"There are no other relatives we know of except for the sister-in-law."

Supt Dzevlan described the discovery of the "very reclusive" woman - who would have turned 87 in August - as a "tragic find".

NSW Police Minister Mike Gallacher called on Sydney to reinvigorate its neighbourhood watch programs to prevent any more lonely deaths.

"(It) really does highlight the need for this state and indeed our community to work closer at building relationships with our community," he said.

"To hear today that an elderly lady can pass away, be dead for eight years and for Centrelink to still be sending cheques to her bank account and for those cheques not to be cashed - surely that must set off the alarm bells within government."

Mr Gallacher also took a swipe at local government, who he said should have noticed rates were not being paid on the woman's home.

Police said they would check to see when Ms Wood's last energy bill was paid, to try to determine the time of her death.

Her sister-in-law - who had been married to her now dead brother - had recently reported her missing to police.

The three of them had argued in 2003 and the sister-in-law said she had not seen her since.

Supt Dzevlan said the woman's mail had been redirected to her sister-in-law but that had eventually stopped.

Her electricity had been turned off years ago and she had received a Centrelink payment for an unknown period of time, although that money had not been touched.

Police said there was a laneway on one side of the home and that it had been reported that Ms Wood had not been seen by her next door neighbour for two decades.

Most people who lived nearby had believed the house was unoccupied.

"(We hope) incidents like this will put a message out there to the community to keep an eye out... especially with the elderly," Supt Dzevlan said.

"It doesn't take much to knock on the doors... make sure everyone's OK."

A coronial report will be prepared.


Source: http://www.odt.co.nz/news/world/167984/lonely-death-shocks-sydney

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