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West Belfast community left stunned by death of pensioner (68)

Police and Forensic officers at the scene of the death of a woman in her 60's at Larkspur Rise in west Belfast Picture Mal McCann.
Marie Louise McConville

The shocking discovery of 68-year-old Marie Conlon's body left the close-knit community of west Belfast stunned.

While many people initially struggled with the news that a pensioner had been found dead in her own home, it was the fact that she had since lain undiscovered - for almost three years - that left the area shocked.

Outside school gates and local shops, the devastating circumstances of the elderly's woman's death was the only topic of conversation.

As forensic officers returned to the woman's flat at Larskpur Rise, off the Suffolk Road to carry out further investigation, those going about their busy lives nearby found themselves asking only one question - how did this member of their community lie undetected for so long?

A relatively new development, Larkspur Rise is home to many private rental tenants, many of whom only stay on short term leases.

As a result, many do not know their neighbours.

However, just yards away, in the Lenadoon housing estate, it is a different story.

Here, in keeping with the west Belfast ethos of looking out for each other, householders tend to be on first name terms with their neighbours. They regularly call in for chats and in particular, they keep an eye out for those who may be in need of extra support.

And, it is the same story across most of west Belfast.

What happened at Larkspur Rise raises serious questions about care of the elderly in modern times.

As we enter the cold, winter months, it may serve as a reminder to us all to check on those most vulnerable members of our community.

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