Seventy-four-year-old John Burrows Baird lived alone and, his
neighbours said, kept to himself.
It was rare that the quietly spoken, well-dressed pensioner
ventured out, so nobody in his south Dunedin neighbourhood
asked any questions when they did not see him for a while.
His son lived at the other end of the country in Auckland.
It was only when his pharmacist became concerned that Baird
had not been in to pick up his medication since January, or
visited his doctor, that anyone began asking questions.
The pharmacist called the police, and on Friday officers
found Baird dead in his home. At first they thought he had
been dead for weeks. They now say he may have been dead for
"Like the rest of the country, Dunedin has been through
something of a heatwave," said Senior Sergeant Bruce Ross.
"So if he died in January you can imagine what the condition
of the body was."
It is not the first time in the past few years that a
pensioner has lain dead in their home for a long time: the
body of Michael Clarke, 88, lay in his Wellington council
flat for more than a year without anyone knowing, until it
was found by chance by council workers preparing to demolish
his apartment block.
Grey Power social services spokeswoman Violet McCowatt said
she knew of many such cases - and pleaded with people to keep
a friendly eye on folk living alone in their neighbourhoods.
"Years ago people used to talk to their neighbours and have
street parties and mingle, but nowadays you don't do it so
much because you don't want people to think you're being
nosy," she said.
"Just keep in touch. If you see that the blinds aren't up for
a few days go and knock on the door."
Police said the cause of Baird's death would not be known
until a post-mortem examination, which is to be carried out
His next of kin had been notified, though yesterday his son
in Auckland did not wish to talk about his father's death.
One neighbour, who did not wish to be identified, said she
was shocked and saddened to hear his body had been
undiscovered for so long.
Baird had lived alone in the house for many years. His garden
was overgrown and unkempt, but when he did leave the house he
was always well-dressed and well-spoken.
She said she could count the number of times she had seen him
on one hand.
Most of his immediate neighbours had moved out recently and
the new occupants probably didn't know anyone was living
"If you saw the state of the house you'd understand why."