AN ELDERLY man who was found dead at home lived in a dark, soggy and rat-infested property, an inquest heard.

The body of Leslie George Smith, 90, was discovered by his only friend Joseph Willett on February 8. He was thought to have lived in his "neglected" Mount Pleasant property near Bighton for at least 71 years.

After making the discovery, Mr Willett called the police and PC Ian Dawson attended the scene.

He said: "When I first arrived, I saw a few people stood outside a house, so I assumed I would be going in there. But when they pointed at the property where Leslie actually was, I was very surprised.

"I entered through a wooden front door without a lock on it and it was very dark inside. There were food and water containers scattered around, but there was no electricity or running water. Pieces of property was stacked to just below the ceiling – it was like a hoarders house."

When Mr Smith's home was cleared out after his death, 138 bin bags of clothes and 15 pianos were amongst the items found.

PC Dawson added: "The ground was soggy underfoot and the ceiling was sagging. The garden was very overgrown with vehicles and bicycles in it, and there was a mobile home sat in the middle.

"There wasn't a functioning bathroom but I saw a bucket, and the windows were all single-pane, some with cracks in them."

When Joseph Willett found Mr Smith, he said the body was on the floor with a sleeping bag covering the face. The pair first met in 2004, and Joseph had visited weekly since.

He said: "When I was selling second hand car parts, he asked if I could remove some items for him. When I got to his house it was like a scrapyard – it took two weeks just to clear the cars.

"After knowing him for six months or so, I'd never seen anyone else bother with him so I invited him for Christmas. He was perfectly polite to everyone he ever met, but he would never stay over for the night, he'd always go back home.

"During the day, he'd use the motor home in the garden which was powered by a gas bottle and then sleep in the house at night.

"He didn't like being told what to do if you were trying to help. He never complained about a thing and he was one hard man to live to his age in those conditions. He just wanted to live his life the way he was. It was heartbreaking when I found him."

The court heard how Mr Smith had not washed in years but social service care could not be forced as he had the full capacity to refuse.

A statement from his GP, Dr Richard Cribb, said the 90-year-old has suffered from a personality disorder since at least 1993.

Acting area coroner Samantha Marsh concluded as death by natural causes, with hypothermia contributing.