Small Ireland community in shock after elderly couple's bodies lay undiscovered for nearly two years

The house where the elderly couple were found.
The house where the elderly couple were found. Photo credit: RTE Ireland

The bodies of an elderly couple have been found in Ireland after they lay undiscovered for nearly two years. 

Police officers made the grim discovery earlier this week after neighbours raised concerns the couple hadn't been seen since late 2020. 

The couple, named Nicholas Smith, 81, and his wife, Hilary Smith, 79, lived in a remote town called Rossane - about 86km from the major Irish city of Limerick. 

Police said Nicholas was found in the bedroom while Hilary was discovered in the living room, with the blinds pulled down throughout the house. There were no signs of foul play or forced entry. 

The cause of death is still unknown as police await the results of toxicology and other tests while a postmortem by a state pathologist was inconclusive.

There is speculation they may have died from COVID-19 or carbon monoxide poisoning.

"We are very much keeping an open mind on the two deaths until we get the full postmortem results but we believe that they died towards the end of 2020 when there was a hard COVID lockdown which may have contributed to people thinking they had left the country," a source told the Irish Times.

Very little concrete information is known about the couple but they reportedly worked on cruise ships in Australia before moving to Ireland about a decade ago.

They continued to receive foreign pensions, which were paid into an Irish bank account from which standing payments were paid out for electricity and heating oil, the Times reported. 

Neighbours said the couple kept to themselves and were "very private". 

"They were always polite and friendly in that they would say hello and wave at you if you saw them on the road but they made it clear from the outset they didn't want to be invited in for tea. They were very private," one neighbour told the Times.

The Smiths told people in the community they intended to move to France and had paid someone in advance to mow their lawns, which put people off raising suspicions. 

With Ireland in a strict lockdown because of COVID-19 for the early part of 2021, this continued to ease fears - with many people believing they had left the area and the house was unoccupied.

It was only when the garden became untidy and the couple's vehicle was still on their property that it prompted a search by police. 

Once the bodies were discovered, officers found expired milk and other perishable items dating back to November or December of 2020, to suggest they died around that time. 

A local councillor said the community was in shock and felt the accusations of a lack of neighbourliness were unfair.  

"They had told people they were moving," he told reporters. "The assumption was these people weren't living in the area anymore. We know very little about the couple. 

"Personally as a councillor and publican you'd know everybody in the area but I never met them. They really did keep to themselves and you have to respect that."