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Foul play ruled out in death of Frank Bratley (85) in Banbridge

By Cate McCurry and Claire Williamson

Published 22/07/2016

The house at Old Forge in Banbridge, where police are investigating a suspicious death
The house at Old Forge in Banbridge, where police are investigating a suspicious death

Police have ruled out foul play in the death of Banbridge pensioner Frank Bratley.

Mr Bratley was discovered at his home in the Old Forge area of Banbridge after his friend arrived at his home with cakes on Tuesday.

Police said they were treating the widower's death as suspicious and appealed for information from the public.

However on Friday, July 22 following a post-mortem examination police said they were no longer treating the death as suspicious.

The 85-year-old's neighbour, who did not want to be named, described him as a "good friend" who will be missed.

He explained that following the death of Frank's wife Maureen three years ago, he visited his neighbour almost every day. Another resident also helped to care for the pensioner, who suffered poor health.

"It's very sad, I found him in bed after going to visit on him on Tuesday afternoon. He was a good friend, it's a sad day for his neighbours," he said.

However, he denied there were any "untoward" circumstances surrounding his death.

"No, I don't believe it is suspicious. I checked his house for any signs of a break-in and didn't find anything."

Police maintained a discreet presence outside the house throughout most of yesterday.

Many in the local community expressed shock, while another neighbour described Frank as a very frail man who would rarely leave his home.

The woman, who asked not to be named, added that he was visited by carers three times a day and had lived in the area for many years.

She added: "It's very sad to hear he died. When I heard they were treating his death as suspicious I was terrified. I wouldn't go to sleep with my windows open and the kids were terrified too. But I don't believe his death is suspicious. I understand he died in his sleep.

"He was a very sweet old man and he is going to be missed around here."

Upper Bann Ulster Unionist MLA, Jo-Anne Dobson, said he was a "much-loved" neighbour.

"An incident such as this sends shockwaves through what is a tightly-knit community," she added.

"The community will be shocked by this tragic turn of events and while many of us are looking for answers, some people may be able to help the police with their enquiries. Frank was a much-loved member of the community and my thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.

"I would encourage anyone with any information to come forward, however insignificant this information may first appear."

DUP MLA Carla Lockhart added: "This is such a tragic incident and my thoughts, prayers and heartfelt sympathies are with the gentleman's family."

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