Body lay undiscovered in New Zealand flat for weeks

THE body of a man who did not show up for a family Christmas dinner lay undiscovered in his Hawke's Bay home for weeks.

Police were called to the Haumoana flat rented by Michael Laughton on Saturday, when his landlords found his body.

His younger sister Amanda Laughton-Baker had invited him to spend Christmas with her family.

"I stressed to him to come around for Christmas, because we knew it was probably the last time we had with him," she said. "He always said 'if I'm here, I'm here'."

Mrs Laughton-Baker said her brother, who was in his 60s, had been "very unwell", mainly because of a liver condition which had turned cancerous.

"It's definitely a sad way of going, but he's out of his pain now," she said. "I just wish he'd been with us."

Yesterday police confirmed his death was a medical event.

Family members had been trying to get in contact with Mr Laughton over the holiday period, however Mrs Laughton-Baker said her brother "enjoyed his own company", and it was not unusual for him to not return calls.

When family went to check on him in the past, after calls being unanswered for long periods, he had always been fine.

"To die alone, that's the hardest thing for us as a family to accept because we would have been with him," Mrs Laughton-Baker said.

"We'll get through this day by day."

Although Mr Laughton was a "quiet sort of man" who liked to be alone, he would often visit family for dinners, or to watch sporting events with them.

The last time Mrs Laughton-Baker had seen her brother was December's Joseph Parker fight.

Mr Laughton's family were now gathering to mourn, and prepare for his service on Saturday. After this, his body would be transported to Taupo on his beloved V8 ute to be laid to rest.

His landlords said they felt "deep regret" they had not discovered his body earlier. They last saw him on December 23. It was believed he died around this time.

Although they had been home over the holiday period, they thought the tenant was away on holiday.

Every time they had checked on the locked-up-property over the holiday break, its state appeared to reinforce the tenant had gone away - with curtains open, and lights off.

They said the "very quiet natured man" had enjoyed spending time with the property owners' horses.

"He loved being around the horses and feeding them," the landlord said. "It's something that brought him joy I think, he knew them all by name."

Grey Power Hastings and Districts association president Marie Dunningham said this incident was a reminder to keep an eye on older people, with more choosing to live alone.

"We should all keep an eye on our neighbours, and look out for anything unusual," she said. "It's becoming more and more important with more [elderly] trying to live on their own and be independent."

However, she said it was just as important to respect people's privacy, as many made the choice to live alone.

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