Postmaster previously jailed for fraud was found weeks after death at his home

A retired postmaster who was jailed for fraud died alone at his home and wasn't found until weeks later.

The body of 63-year-old Peter Huxham was so badly decomposed by the time police officers searched his flat that the cause of his death was not confirmed, an inquest heard on Tuesday, November 24.

A concern for welfare was reported to police on July 26, 2020, after fears were raised to the landlord of Western House, Gatehouse Hill, Dawlish, where Mr Huxham lived, DevonLive reports.

Neighbours reported seeing a build of mail in his letterbox, and flies on the glass inside the frontdoor.

Police attended his first-floor flat later that day after being a key by the landlord and discovered Mr Huxham on the floor in his lounge.

In a statement, police confirmed his body was "significantly" decomposed and that there had not been any signs of forced entry.

It was noted that a bottle of milk had been found with an expiry date of July 16.

DS Peter Morgan said: "It is believed he passed away some weeks before his body was found, and he had been left undisturbed until the attendance of police."

A report from Mr Huxham's GP told how he had a history of alcohol abuse since 2009. In 2015 he suffered a single major depressive episode.

He had also being diagnosed with other health problems including high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease.

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The GP confirmed he had not seen Mr Huxham since March 2019, when he reported feeling better daily.

However, he was still having issues with alcohol, which he was referred for help for, and told a practice nurse at the surgery in November 2019 that he was consuming 42 units a week.

Mr Huxham, who was born in Torquay and was single, was reported to have not engaged with a local alcohol service, and he only had "very brief" contact with mental health services in 2013 to 2014, because it was deemed the main issue was alcohol and there was "no sign" of mental health issues.

The cause of his death was confirmed as being unascertained due to his body being severely decomposed.

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The post-mortem examination report said: "From his clinical history, it is likely he died fairly suddenly and had not been found for a long period of time."

Recording an open conclusion, assistant coroner Stephen Covell said: "It is unfortunately rather an unsatisfactory state of affairs that I cannot give any helpful conclusions as to the precise circumstances of Peter's death.

"He lived alone and died some weeks previously, and as a result his body was badly decomposed and it was not possible to give a cause of death. There were no suspicious circumstances."

In March 2019, the Express and Echo reported how Mr Huxham, then aged 52, was jailed for eight months at Exeter Crown Court, after admitting one offence of fraud while running Starcross Post Office.

An attempt to wrongly raise suspicions that his estranged wife stole £16,000 from his store failed to save him from prison.

The offence involved stealing £16,158 from the store, from October 2008, until his crimes were discovered by auditors in a visit in September 2009.

Judge Philip Wassall told Mr Huxham that he had let the community down as Starcross had been left without a post office. He had previously run the branch for around 25 years.

The court heard that the defendant's parents, who were not involved in his crimes, had since paid the money back on his behalf.

Mr Huxham told the court that he could not explain how the money had gone missing.

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