A “quiet and intelligent” pensioner who “kept himself to himself” was found dead in his garden by a neighbour who peered through a gap in the fence, an inquest has heard.

Alan Thomas, 74, had sadly been dead for weeks when his body was found in the garden of his Hatters Lane High Wycombe bungalow on August 2 after his next-door neighbour noticed a bad smell.

The retired telecoms engineer had to be identified through dental records because his body was in a “decomposed state”, an inquest into his death at Buckinghamshire Coroner’s Court heard on Wednesday.

In a statement read out at the inquest, Alan’s niece Alison said her uncle had lived alone since 2008 after his parents died and was “friendly but never wanted people to come inside his house”.

Family members would offer to visit, but he told them not to. Despite this, Alison remembered her “quiet and intelligent” uncle as a man who loved guitars and going out to the library to use their computers and liked children, always giving them money on birthdays and at Christmas.

Alan’s body was discovered on the ground in his garden by neighbour Pauline Morris at around 9am on August 2 this year.

In a statement, Pauline said: “He was a very private person but when my husband died, he said if I needed anything, I could ask him. We would speak to each other over the fence if we were both in the garden.

“With the first lockdown, he was depressed. He didn’t want visitors. I last saw him about three weeks to a month ago, he said he was fed up but didn’t expand on it.

“I noticed a bad smell when I went outside my house. I spoke to a neighbour and they arranged for a drain specialist to come out.

“But on August 2, I looked through the gap in the fence because I thought the smell was coming from Alan’s property and I saw a body shape. He was always making things and at first I thought it might be a scarecrow. I knocked on his door and got no answer so I called the police.”

Because his body was found outside, detectives descended on the scene to investigate. A search of his home found Alan had prepared his own funeral documents, identification, bank statements and the deeds to his home.

His cause of death was asphyxia.

Senior coroner for Buckinghamshire, Crispin Butler, acknowledged how upsetting Alan’s death would have been for his family and his neighbour.

He said: “[Alan] seems to have been a very organised man who kept himself to himself. He was found deceased in a state of decomposition in the back garden. He had intentionally taken his own life and appeared to have organised all his paperwork inside his house. He wanted to help out those who would be dealing with his affairs afterwards.”

Mr Butler ruled that Alan had died as a result of suicide. Addressing Alan’s sister-in-law and niece who had attended the inquest, he said: “Please try to remember the nice things you said about Alan. He lived life in a friendly and helpful manner and that’s the way he chose to live his life.”

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