Woman dead in home for eight years

Natalie Wood, who lay dead inside her house for eight years, had a falling out with her family after they refused to care for her when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour, an inquest has concluded.

The skeletal remains of the elderly Sydney woman were found by police in July 2011 in the upstairs bedroom of her Surry Hills home, only metres away from bustling Central Railway Station.

In his findings into her death, State Coroner Michael Barnes said that her sister-in-law Enid Davis was mistaken when she told police that she had last seen Ms Wood in January 2003, when she had apparently learned of Ms Wood's brain tumour.

"Ms Wood had not been diagnosed with the brain tumour she told her sister-in-law of until November 2003," Mr Barnes said.

"In my view it is likely that Ms Wood was aggrieved that her brother and sister-in-law had not agreed to her being discharged to their place when the hospital inquired about this possibility.

"She was also disappointed that for the first time they did not share Christmas with her that year.

"Although Ms Davis denies it, I expect Ms Wood expressed her disappointment to them when she saw them soon after Christmas 2003.

"I suspect she did it in such a manner that when she then ceased all further contact, they were not surprised and did not assume anything untoward had become of her."

Mr Barnes said that Ms Wood had died on an unknown date in February 2004 after possibly falling in her home and not being able to summon help.

However, he concluded that the cause and manner of her death is not ascertainable.

Mr Barnes dismissed the evidence of a neighbour who this week told police that he had seen a middle-aged woman looking out the window of the house during the eight years that Ms Wood was thought to have been lying dead inside.

Ashley Russell Blower, who moved to Kippax Street in 2005, said the night he moved in he was told by a neighbour that Ms Wood's brother had said she moved to the country and the house was vacant.

But Mr Blower said that in the winter of 2007, when he was outside with his dog, he noticed a woman standing by the window of the house.

Mr Barnes said Mr Blower was unable to accurately describe the house and it was unlikely he would have been able to see her from across the street.

Records show that Ms Wood ceased using her electricity and water in 2004.

Police found no mattress, TV, fridge, purse or wallet in the house, which is now estimated to be worth close to $1 million.

A family dispute over her house and cash is believed to be underway. Ms Wood had lived in the Kippax Street house since she was born in 1924 but moved in with Ms Davis and her brother for several years until 1997 when she resumed living in her family home.

The inquest made no recommendations.

"Human sensibilities are naturally offended by the thought of an old woman decomposing in her house without anyone inquiring to ascertain what has become of her," Mr Barnes said.

"However, platitudinous comments about a need for a more caring society would achieve nothing."

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