Man’s body lay undiscovered in flat for four months


By Alan Robertson, Anna Gault and Niamh Anderson

The Hedges affordable housing development where Mr McCutcheon was staying.

THE body of an vulnerable man lay undiscovered in his home for up to four months, it emerged today.

Brian McCutcheon, 39, who was epileptic and at one stage receiving social work support, is believed to have died in February.

Staff at the affordable housing development in Tranent, East Lothian, where he lived knocked on his door during an inspection in April and received no reply. No follow-up checks were done.

His remains were finally discovered on June 3 after neighbours reported an “odd smell” and flies gathering at the window of his ground-floor flat.

Police officers then forced their way in and found Mr McCutcheon’s body in the bedroom.

There are not thought to be any suspicious circumstances but the case is certain to raise questions about how such a vulnerable man could have died and lain undiscovered for so long.

Unopened mail, rotting food and newspapers confirmed Mr McCutcheon – who lived alone – had been dead since February this year.

A local neighbour said:

“He’d lived in the flat for about two years but I’d only seen him a handful of times. He was a friendly enough guy, he always smiled and said hello, but he kept to himself.

“I definitely haven’t seen him about for at least a couple of months.

“We’d noticed a bit of an odd smell a few weeks back but it never occurred to us that it could be anything so horrible as a dead body. We just thought there was some damp in our flat or something.

“It was another neighbour who got in touch with the police after they were out in the back garden and saw loads of flies at his window.

“Then on the Friday I was at work and I got a phone call from a friend that the police were everywhere in our street and they were carrying a body out of the flat.”

He added:

“It’s such a shame. I can’t believe no friends or family ever stopped by to see him or figured out something was wrong. “

The front door of Mr McCutcheon’s ground-floor flat.

A cleaning firm was today (Thu) clearing out the property, including a mattress with a body-sized dark stain.

A pair of old black trainers and a mound of post could be seen inside the front door earlier this morning with flies still gathering. The blinds were drawn.

It is understood Mr McCutcheon – a father, son and brother – was recently forced to leave his job of 17 years for health reasons before being diagnosed with epilepsy last year.

The 39-year-old was on basic benefits and is said to have struggled to afford the 500 cost of refitting his bathroom with a shower to prevent serious danger should he have a seizure while washing.

It has been reported that the dead man was receiving support from East Lothian’s social care department for a short time in 2009 before opting to stop receiving the assistance later that year.

Tracey Kerr, director of housing at East Lothian Housing Association (ELHA) – which owns the housing development, The Hedges, in which the man stayed – said staff last carried out an inspection of the properties in April.

However, staff were unable to speak with Mr McCutcheon following failure to receive an answer at his door.

She added:

“There was nothing to indicate in this case that there was a problem. We carry out regular inspections of our properties but had received no information to suggest that there was anything wrong. “

A spokeswoman for East Lothian Council admitted the local authority was involved in helping Mr McCutcheon. “There was social work involvement to support Mr McCutcheon a number of years ago to assist with short term concern in his life.

“It’s always a sad state of affairs when you have an individual who may have died and neighbours, family or other agencies were not aware of the full circumstances.”

It was understood that Mr McCutcheon moved to Tranent from Edinburgh after the break up of his marriage. The support he received from the council was thought to relate to the split rather than his medical condition.

NHS Lothian refused to comment on individual cases and said the incident was a matter for the police.

East Lothian Labour Councillor Donald Grant said:

“It’s unfortunate and tragic this has happened that his body has been lying for a number of months. It’s deeply worrying. “

Councillor David Grant, ward member, added:

“I’m a bit concerned that this gentleman had lain for a suspected three months before being discovered and I hope that the support he was receiving wasn’t curtailed prematurely. “