Police in Ireland are investigating the cause of the deaths of two British pensioners whose bodies had not been discovered in their country bungalow for nearly 18 months until they were found this week.
The couple, who locally goes by the name Nicholas Smith, 81, and his wife, Hillary Smith, 79, lived in a remote town called Rossan, about three miles from the village of Klonen in County Tipperary.
Police made the shocking discovery on Monday after neighbors expressed concern about the couple they hadn’t seen since late 2020.
Nicholas was in the bedroom and Hillary in the living room. The curtains were pulled. There was no sign of manipulation or forced entry.
An autopsy performed by the state’s pathologist, Linda Mulligan, at Waterford University Hospital, was inconclusive. The police are awaiting the results of toxicology and other tests. There is speculation that they may have died of Covid-19 or carbon monoxide poisoning, but police stressed that they were open-minded.
The couple reportedly worked on cruise ships in Australia – Nicholas is said to have been a captain – before retiring to Ireland and moving to Roussanne about a decade ago. He does not believe they have children.
“They kept to themselves a lot,” a neighbor told the Irish Times. “They were always polite and friendly in that they would say hi and wave to you if you saw them on the road, but they made it clear from the start that they didn’t want to be invited over for tea. They were very private.”
In late 2020, the Smiths told people in the area that they intended to move to France, and they paid a man up front to keep cutting the lawn so that their absence would cause no concern. The strict Covid lockdown that lasted until 2021 has fueled curiosity.
The unkempt condition of the garden, and the fact that the couple’s car remained on the property, prompted police to conduct a social check on Monday.
The condition and expiration dates of milk cartons and other perishable items in the refrigerator indicate the couple died in November or December 2020. Police are checking letters and documents at home for clues and contacting police forces in the UK and Australia to find out more about the duo.
Council member Mark Fitzgerald said the community was shocked and saddened, and also felt unfair criticism on social media, where there were accusations of lack of neighborliness.
“They have told people that they are moving,” he told reporters. The assumption was that these people no longer live in the area. We know very little about the couple. As a counselor and personal publican, you know everyone in the area but I’ve never met them. They really kept themselves and you have to respect that.”