Lights were turned on at flat to conceal pensioner's death

Police at the scene at Larkspur Rise in west Belfast where pensioner Marie Conlon's remains laid undetected for over two years. Picture Mal McCann.

A charity has called for "positive steps" to tackle isolation of the elderly after a woman was found in bed more than two years after she died.

A man has been charged with theft and preventing the burial of Marie Conlon's body.

The 23-year-old is also accused of fraud and burglary after the pensioner, 68, was discovered at a flat in west Belfast a week ago. He is due to appear in court next month but is no longer being investigated for murder.

Forensic examinations continue to establish the exact cause of death after police initially said Ms Conlon had been murdered.

Age NI's chief executive Linda Robinson said she was saddened to learn of the tragic circumstances.

"In Northern Ireland a significant number of our older population live alone and are not connected to others in their community.

"We all have a role to play in reducing loneliness and isolation experienced by older people, it undermines a person's well-being and feelings of self-worth and is now being recognised as a public health challenge.

"Age NI believes that society needs to take positive steps towards tackling an issue that devastates the lives of so many older people."

Ms Conlon was last seen in January 2015 and police believe her death occurred then.

Her family said she was a "beloved sister" and would be greatly mourned.

It is believed Ms Conlon had lived alone since the death of her sister neighbours have said.

The Larkspur Rise flat where she was discovered was believed to have been purchased by the siblings a number of years ago and initially occupied by both.

Local people say she also had relatives from Newry where she lived for a time.

It is believed that lights had been switched on and off at night in the flat, creating the appearance that Ms Conlon, who had been somewhat of a recluse, was still alive and living in the property.

Her family said numerous attempts had been made to contact her in person and by other means over the course of the last two years, but at no point were suspicions raised that she was deceased.

"She was a very independent person", they added.

Police forced entry to Ms Conlon's apartment on Thursday. The pensioner's remains were discovered wrapped in blankets in the bedroom.

Parish priest, Fr Aidan Brankin said yesterday that the family were unable to make any funeral arrangements at present and were awaiting until the police investigation into the tragedy was complete.

The PSNI said: "The 23-year-old man arrested by detectives investigating the death of 68-year-old Marie Conlon has been charged with offences related to theft, fraud, burglary and preventing the lawful burial of a body."

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