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Cause of Ruth Newnham's death may never be known after she was found in squalid Dartford home

By Ed McConnell

It may never be known how a woman who lay dead in a squalid house for several weeks died.

An inquest into the death of Ruth Newnham lasted just two minutes, with the coroner left with no alternative than to record an open verdict.

The 62-year-old "lived as a recluse" at 85 Keyes Road, in Temple Hill, Dartford, for many years and had cut off all contact with her family, Roger Hatch told the hearing held at Maidstone's Archbishop's Palace.

The house in Keyes Road, Dartford where Ruth Newman was found dead on Monday. Picture: Chris Davey. (2771354)
The house in Keyes Road, Dartford where Ruth Newman was found dead on Monday. Picture: Chris Davey. (2771354)

Police were called to the property on Monday, June 25, after neighbours raised concerns about the former Asda canteen worker who hadn't been seen for a number of weeks.

One man, who dialled 999 to raise the alarm but did not wish to be named, previously told the Messenger the putrid smells which had been emanating from number 85 for years meant residents at first didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

"In 2018 nobody should be left like that. It’s disgusting.” — The neighbour who phoned 999

Police and fire crews were called to the property at 9am. Mrs Newnham’s body was recovered alongside a number of animals, some of which were dead.

Mr Hatch told the inquest her body was "badly decomposed", so much so a cause of death could not be ascertained when Dr Miriam Mitchison.

It is understood her water was switched off six months ago following a leak but had never been turned back on as housing officers were unable to arrange access.

The man who called the police said: “I understand it was difficult as she didn’t cooperate with the authorities but in 2018 nobody should be left like that. It’s disgusting.”

He added over the past 15 years neighbours repeatedly raised concerns with Dartford council about Miss Newnham’s welfare.

She lived at the property for at least 35 years, her husband, Les, left five years ago and last year she lost her job in the canteen at Asda’s Greenhithe depot.

Ruth Newnham had been dead for several weeks
Ruth Newnham had been dead for several weeks

He said: “The council was involved in an environmental health aspect because the garden was so bad. The gardener eventually refused to come back because every time he lifted up a pot there was a dead cat underneath.

“Two years ago they broke her door down because they thought she must be dead. There’d been a leak and her house was under three foot of water. When they got in they found her living inside.”

Another resident, who also did not wish to be named, added: “How can a woman be left without water in 2018? Questions need to be asked. In this country we have safe guarding policies in place for vulnerable adults and this lady should have had care plans put in place.

“I am so angry about this ladies death and I am so sad because the system has let her down. Where was her help? So what if she was difficult there are ways to get people to engage with agencies.

“It seems she couldn’t be bothered because she was just too much trouble.

“A few days ago I walked past the house and a man who was cleaning it was outside effing and blinding about the state of the place. I just think that’s so disrespectful, even now she’s dead she’s being failed.”

She added that she had contacted the council’s animal welfare team two weeks ago who had said they would attend and had also regularly spoken to the housing officer.

It is understood Kent County Council’s adult social services received notifications from Dartford council and a resident in November 2013, which at the time were acted upon.

In regard to Dartford’s notification about housing issues contact could not be made with Mrs Newnham, while the concerns raised bythe neighbour were referred to her GP.

Dartford council has been approached for comment.

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