Police investigating the deaths of two British pensioners who are feared to have been dead in their Co Tipperary home for 18 months will examine if Covid-19 played a role in how they passed away.
Toxicology tests will prove critical in determining how and when the elderly couple died in the south Tipperary home they had secured for retirement.
It is feared the couple, who have not been formally identified but who were named locally as Nicholas and Hilary Smith, may have been dead for up to 18 months in their bungalow at Cloneen between Fethard and Mullinahone before they were discovered at 4pm on Monday.
One theory being examined is whether Covid-19 played any role. The grim discovery was made when gardaí called to the house after concerns about the two pensioners were brought to their attention by neighbours.
Some believed they had moved back to the UK during the pandemic, with reports indicating the couple, aged in their late 70s, were last seen around late 2020 or early 2021.
Described as polite but very private, they had kept to themselves since they moved to the area near the Kilkenny and Waterford border.
However, concerns were raised with gardaí after locals noted the increasingly unkempt condition of the property as the couple were noted for their pride in keeping the garden and house in immaculate condition.
Gardaí sealed off the bungalow after they were found.
One body was discovered in a bedroom and the other was found in a separate area of the house. Both had been dead for a considerable period of time — it is now believed this could be for over 18 months.
There were no signs of forced entry or any indication of a disturbance.
Both bodies were transferred to University Hospital Waterford where state pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan commenced post-mortem examinations.
Those examinations were set to prove painstaking given the condition of the two bodies.
Identification is understood to be reliant on dental records or DNA.
A garda source said the nature of their investigation will now be determined by the post-mortem findings.
Toxicology tests are expected to prove critical in helping to determine a precise cause of death, with one of the deceased said to have suffered from health issues over recent years.
Detectives are keeping an open mind, but there is no indication, so far, that foul play was involved.
Fine Gael councillor Mark Fitzgerald said neighbours believed the couple had moved away some time ago.
“They had told people they were moving. The assumption was these people weren’t living in the area anymore,” he said.
“It’s very much a feeling of shock and sadness today. You have to think of their family now. It’s a sad time. A resident had noted concerns to me and I just asked the gardaí for a welfare check... that’s how we are in the situation we are in.
“We know very little about the couple. Personally, as a councillor and publican, you’d know everybody in the area but I never met them. They really did keep to themselves and you have to respect that.”