Neigh­bours tell of their stunned dis­be­lief:

Belfast Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - Ivan Lit­tle re­ports,

CLOSE to tears, a dis­traught mother who lives near the west Belfast apart­ment that hid a grim se­cret for over two-and-ahalf years spoke yes­ter­day of feel­ing phys­i­cally sick over what hap­pened to tragic Marie Con­lon with­out any of her neigh­bours know­ing that any­thing was wrong.

The wo­man, who didn’t want to be iden­ti­fied, said the re­vul­sion over the death of 68-year-old Ms Con­lon in Lark­spur Rise, off Suf­folk Road, had been com­pounded by the po­lice rev­e­la­tion that her body may have lain undis­cov­ered in her home since Jan­uary 2015.

As the full pic­ture of the hor­ror emerged yes­ter­day, or­gan­i­sa­tions rep­re­sent­ing the el­derly said the tragedy high­lighted the need for peo­ple to keep in touch with their rel­a­tives and neigh­bours.

But a num­ber of res­i­dents in the tiny Lark­spur Rise hous­ing de­vel­op­ment said they’d been up­set by posts on so­cial me­dia crit­i­cis­ing them for not show­ing enough con­cern for Ms Con­lon.

“Those at­tacks on the peo­ple here have been to­tally un­war­ranted,” the mother said. “The apart­ments where the body was found have very tran­sito- ry pop­u­la­tions. Res­i­dents are al­ways com­ing and go­ing.”

The neighbour said that she had no­ticed the wo­man she thought was Ms Con­lon sev­eral years ago, but when she didn’t see her again she as­sumed she had moved away to live some­where else.

“It’s heart­break­ing to think that poor wo­man had been ly­ing dead there for so long,” she said.

“But there was noth­ing un­to­ward which would have raised our sus­pi­cions.”

An­other res­i­dent, Shauna Law­son, said Ms Con­lon’s death had left her feel­ing deeply un­set­tled and fear­ful in her own home, which is just a few doors away from the scene.

“I just hope who­ever did it is brought to jus­tice. It’s very fright­en­ing,” she added.

One neighbour, who works as a nurse and lives with her fam­ily in the prop­erty fac­ing Ms Con­lon’s flat, was in tears yes­ter­day when she learned the truth.

“To think that some­one could be there for so long on their own with­out be­ing dis­cov­ered is just aw­ful,” she said.

“I’m dumb­founded, I can’t be­lieve that a body has been ly­ing there for two years.

“I can speak for all of my

❝ To think that some­one could be there for so long on their own with­out be­ing dis­cov­ered is just aw­ful

You would won­der why Ms Con­lon’s plight never came to the at­ten­tion of the au­thor­ites

neigh­bours, I’m com­pletely shocked.”

She added: “I’d seen her a few times com­ing and go­ing, but I didn’t know her.”

An­other wo­man said she didn’t know how she was go­ing to ex­plain the pres­ence of the po­lice and the Press to her chil­dren es­pe­cially as they played reg­u­larly in the com­mu­nal space in front of the apart­ment block where Ms Con­lon was dis­cov­ered dead in bed last Fri­day.

The PSNI said it re­sponded to con­cerns about Ms Con­lon’s wel­fare, but it is not clear who raised the alarm.

Po­lice were stunned by the dis­cov­ery in the sec­ond floor flat.

“It was ex­tremely dis­tress­ing for the of­fi­cers who broke into the apart­ment,” said a PSNI source. It was im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous to the po­lice that Ms Con­lon had been dead for a con­sid­er­able pe­riod of time and they es­tab­lished the last sight­ing of her was well over two-and-a-half years ago.

Chief In­spec­tor Alan Dick­son said med­i­cal ev­i­dence had shown that her death may have oc­curred as far back as Jan­uary 2015. Neigh­bours who were left stunned at the dis­cov­ery of the body were even more ap­palled by the po­lice an­nounce­ment that they’d launched a mur­der in­quiry af­ter re­ceiv­ing the re­sults of a post-mortem.

Yes­ter­day a sin­gle PSNI Land Rover sat out­side one of the three-storey apart­ment blocks at the en­trance to Lark­spur Rise.

A 23-year-old man was ar­rested on Wed­nes­day on sus­pi­cion of mur­der and what po­lice de­scribed as “other of­fences”.

There were un­con­firmed re­ports that he may have lived in the same apart­ment block as Ms Con­lon, who it’s un­der­stood was not mar­ried and did not have chil­dren.

It’s be­lieved she had a Face­book ac­count but hadn’t been ac­tive on it since 2014.

Yes­ter­day, as well as ex­am­in­ing Ms Con­lon’s flat, foren­sic ex­perts also car­ried out a num­ber of searches in the area.

Teams of PSNI of­fi­cers were en­gaged in door-to-door en­quiries, but given the pas­sage of time, they weren’t op­ti­mistic about un­cov­er­ing any sig­nif­i­cant in­for­ma­tion to help with their in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Ms Con­lon’s apart­ment backs onto the car park of the busy Suf­folk Inn pub but there were no in­di­ca­tions from there that any­thing was amiss.

Sinn Fein coun­cil­lor Seanna Walsh, who was at Lark­spur Rise yes­ter­day, said he didn’t know Ms Con­lon but he was ac­quainted with mem­bers of her fam­ily.

He re­layed a mes­sage from them say­ing that they wanted pri­vacy “at this dif­fi­cult time”.

Mr Walsh added rel­a­tives were reel­ing from the news, which had over­whelmed the en­tire fam­ily cir­cle.

He added: “It was bad enough for them to have to deal with the death but then to be told that Marie had been mur­dered made it harder for them to come to terms with the tragedy.”

Mr Walsh said there was a de­gree of es­trange­ment between Ms Con­lon and her fam­ily but he added that rel­a­tives had vis­ited the apart­ment on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, how­ever they thought she sim­ply didn’t want to an­swer the door.

He de­scribed the cir­cum­stances of Ms Con­lon’s death and the dis­cov­ery of her body as a re­flec­tion on the level of dis­con­nect in mod­ern day so­ci­ety.

“If she’d lived in a house fur­ther into the es­tate it might have been dif­fer­ent,” Mr Walsh added.

Age NI said in a tweet that the tragic news about Ms Con­lon high­lighted “how much we need to keep in touch with one an­other”.

A num­ber of ques­tions were be­ing asked yes­ter­day about how Ms Con­lon’s death went un­de­tected for so long.

One for­mer so­cial ser­vices worker said: “You would won­der why Ms Con­lon’s plight never came to the at­ten­tion of the au­thor­i­ties or to ser­vice providers who would have been send­ing her com­mu­ni­ca­tions on a reg­u­lar ba­sis but weren’t re­ceiv­ing any replies.

“There’s also the ques­tion of her pen­sion and why it would have gone un­col­lected.”

PRESSEYE

Po­lice foren­sic ex­perts at the scene yes­ter­day af­ter a wo­man’s body was found at

a prop­erty in west Belfast

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