doc

A HAMPSHIRE woman was eaten by her own cats after her dead body lay undiscovered in her home for several weeks, an inquest heard.

Janet Veal was found in the kitchen of her isolated Ringwood home after neighbours raised the alarm, concerned that they had not seen her for a long time and mail was overflowing in the letter box.

Inside officers were met with a “distressing” scene with the 56-year-old’s body on the kitchen floor, with parts missing as a result of being “gnawed and eaten” by her animals that had been left without food for possibly months.

Southampton Coroner’s Court heard how PC Dave Ivey gained entry into the semi-detached home, The Holdings, in Crow Arch Lane, which was down a farm track, with nothing around it for 100 yards, by using a ladder to get in through an unsecured upstairs rear window.

As soon as he got inside it was clear it had not been aired for numerous weeks and all the rooms of the property were covered with items and rubbish making it impossible to see the floor.

When he went downstairs and entered the kitchen and living room it was immediately apparent that there were a number of dead animals, including a number of cats and a dog, as well as some that were still alive.

Coroner Keith Wiseman said: “These animals had been, the officer thought, confined in these two rooms downstairs for what may well have been a period of many weeks, stretching quite possibly into several months.”

It was in the kitchen, on the afternoon of April 4, that PC Ivey discovered the body of Mrs Veal, who was estranged from her husband, who left a year before.

Mr Wiseman added: “This too was a distressing experience because it was clear that certain parts of Mrs Veal’s body were missing and had, the officer formed the view, effectively been gnawed and eaten away by the animals.

“One can only imagine the difficulty with the scene the officer was having to deal with.”

Reading from her medical history it was clear that Mrs Veal, who was described as a recluse by her neighbours, suffered from various chest conditions over the years.

The post-mortem proved “extremely difficult” due to the extent of decomposition but pathologist Dr Vipul Foria concluded that the death was “possibly” due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Describing Mrs Veal as an animal lover, Mr Wiseman said: “Exactly what happened to render Mrs Veal unable to assist herself or get any kind of help is unclear. Obviously one or other of the chest conditions might have disabled her but it is not at all clear.”

Ruling a death from natural causes Mr Wiseman added: “There is no indication otherwise and no suggestion, if I can go to the complete extreme, any suggestion that she had been in any way attacked by the animals while she was alive.

“Given the background history and findings I am prepared to find on the balance of probabilities this was sadly a natural death that led to really very untoward consequences because of the inability of Mrs Veal to get any assistance for herself and to be confined in the way that she was in this property with a number of animals that had not been fed for quite a long period of time.”