She shopped till she dropped

LONDON: The body of a shopaholic pensioner was discovered buried beneath a mountain of clothes after she collapsed and died at her home, an inquest heard yesterday.

Joan Cunnane, an unmarried 77-year-old, lived alone in Heaton Mersey, near Stockport, in a bungalow so stuffed with items that it took police five searches to find her body. There was a two-foot space in which she could navigate around her possessions.

Her friend, Roy Moran, told an inquest at Stockport: “She lived alone. Her home was her sanctuary, always immaculate and in the last few years she wouldn’t let anyone into the property. She realised it was getting out of control and she needed an input, but she was very stubborn about it and wouldn’t make a decision.” She told him that buying attractive things “such as vases” gave her pleasure. A fan of TV programmes about antiques, she once spoke of owning 300 scarves. Her car was also laden with items and she and a neighbour once spent four hours emptying it before its annual inspection.

Cunnane was a retired British Telecom operator who had worked for the company for 40 years. Moran, 77, from Cheadle Hulme, told the court that he last saw her on Christmas Day when they had lunch together before returning to his home. Moran called at her bungalow twice over the following days and, concerned at the lack of response, visited her again for a third time on December 29. Concerned neighbours also contacted Greater Manchester police on January 6, but an initial search of the £160,000 bungalow was unsuccessful due to “the large amount of personal property and papers within”, Detective Inspector Kevin Dolan said in a statement read to the court.

Police returned to the bungalow the following day with a truck and a skip to clear out the bungalow and conduct another search. The body was eventually discovered in a bedroom “under a substantial pile of clothing and other items”.

Pathologist Philip Lumb said Cunnane had died as a result of bronchial pneumonia, and that she also had cancer. The South Manchester coroner, John Pollard, recorded a verdict of death by natural causes.