A Pinner pensioner who died alone among mountains of festering rubbish was let down by Harrow Council officials for nearly a decade, according to neighbours.
Hoarder Tony Baxter was found dead in his £350,000 flat in Pinner, surrounded by waist-height junk in every room.
But for eight years his neighbours in Nower Hill had been writing to Harrow Council, trying to help the 85-year-old, after the smell attracted rats and his health deteriorated.
On Friday, one month after his death, council workers cleared out the squalid flat, and discovered masses of urine-stained clothes, newspapers and letters, and carrier bags full of excrement.
Conditions were so bad that it is believed Mr Baxter died inches from his front door because he could no longer clamber over the piles of rubbish throughout his home.
It took more than four hours for staff to clear just the hallway of the flat, using industrial-sized bags.
Bait boxes were left in the bedroom over the weekend after workers found evidence of mice and rats.
Workers had to don forensic suits and cover their mouths with face masks to cope with the putrid smell of damp urine and soiled furniture, which hit from as far back as the front of the driveway.
Mr Baxter had barricaded himself in by piling a mountain of junk outside his bedroom window at the back of the ground-floor flat.
Neighbours are unsure when he started hoarding, but it is believed it started to become a problem before his wife Thelma became ill with cancer.
When she died in 1991 his living conditions deteriorated rapidly – so much so that a relative of hers needed to stay in the flat upstairs when he came to Harrow for the funeral.
The owner of the upstairs flat, Pam Scantlebury, was insistent that something had to be done to clear up the flat and in 1998, seven years later, she successfully applied for a Harrow Council grant to clear up the home.
Her son Richard told the Observer: "After years of trying to get the council to do something, my mum found a Staying Put programme, which helps bring properties up to scratch so people don’t have to move.
"He was put in a bed and breakfast for about four months and they completely gutted the house. He was given new windows, new floors, new fittings, a whole new kitchen and it was all rewired at the expense of the taxpayer.
"It must have cost in the region of £60,000, yet nobody ever came back to check that he was keeping it in a good state.
"Soon he was hoarding again and my mum was battling to get him more help.
"Nobody should have to live in conditions like that and for the last eight years trying to get it sorted had taken over our lives.
"It has been an absolute nightmare for my mum, who is now 91. Every time I ever saw her the topic of conversation was Tony Baxter. It has definitely had a detrimental effect on her well-being.
"We were just fobbed off time and time again.
"I can understand someone slipping through the net, but we continued to tell the council about this for nearly 18 years in total.
"It’s just not good enough."
Another neighbour, Mary Segal, wrote constantly to the council for the best part of eight years, in a bid to get Mr Baxter some help.
She added: "He was clearly unwell and was in desperate need of some care.
"He was always talking to himself or walking in front of traffic and he needed help. I would often see him come home late at night pulling trollies’ worth of rubbish, and taking in neighbours’ bins on the morning of collection days. Someone from the environmental health used to come round to ensure that he was putting rubbish out for collection, but once they had noted the full bags outside his home he would take the bags and empty them back into his home. We just couldn’t believe that nobody monitored his situation after so much money was spent on his flat."
Councillor Susan Hall, responsible for environmental services, defended the council’s lack of help. She said: "We were sorry to learn of the death of Mr Baxter.
"Council officers from the adult services and environmental departments had been in contact with Mr Baxter for over 10 years. He was assisted through the Harrow Staying Put scheme, which assists elderly residents who wish to continue living in their property.
"More recently he declined our offers of assistance, which was his choice to do. In these circumstances we do have to accept the rights of the individual to live as they choose, but we try to get a balance to minimise the impact it causes on neighbours."
To see more pictures from the hoarder's house click here .