Wigan residents' plea for help over flat left empty after neighbour's death

Paul Johnson and neighbour Christine Leaver are at their wits end by the empty flat
Paul Johnson and neighbour Christine Leaver are at their wits end by the empty flat

Fed-up residents say they have no idea where to turn for help after the death of their neighbour led to his home being abandoned.

No-one has been inside the flat on Acton Terrace in Swinley since Cyril Hurst, 87, was found collapsed there in July.

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Paramedics forced their way in and he was taken to Wigan Infirmary, but died a few days later.

It is thought Mr Hurst did not have any relatives and an appeal by the coroner’s officer to trace his next of kin appears to have been unsuccessful.

His neighbours now want something done about the flat he owned, which they say smells, particularly during the summer months.

But they do not know where to turn and say despite contacting the police and Wigan Council, the property remains abandoned.

Paul Johnson, who has lived in the building since 2001, said: “We are in a situation where no-one owns the property so no-one wants to take responsibility and no-one wants to help. It’s trying to find someone to help us.”

Residents have sought help for some time, but have stepped up their efforts as they fear the smell will become worse in the summer.

They are concerned it could be caused by decaying food and human excrement.

Mr Johnson uses a door excluder to keep out the smell, but Mr Hurst’s nearest neighbours, Christine Leaver and her husband, are particularly affected by it.

She even sprays air freshener under the door when the smell is particularly strong.

Mrs Leaver, 82, said: “When you walk out you get a little whiff. It’s staleness because there are no windows.”

The property being unoccupied also means Mr Hurst’s neighbours have to cover his share of the service charge.

Mr Johnson, 42, said: “We need to know what to do next or for someone to point us in the right direction. We are lost. We are paying extra money and putting up with the smell.”

While the neighbours do have a key to Mr Hurst’s flat, they have not used it for fear of trespassing.

But they hope the authorities will now get involved.

Mrs Leaver said: “We really want it sorting out. Somebody must be allowed to come in.”

Julie Searing, environmental health manager at Wigan Council, said: “We were made aware of the issue last year and have visited the property twice before but environmental officers have not identified a smell or any pests.

“We returned once again to the property on Friday and officers have ascertained there is no statutory nuisance within the flat and therefore no action can be taken at this

point.”