He would wear a brown coat, no matter the season, and pace up and down Greenwich Road.
He rarely spoke, his neighbors said, but when prompted would sometimes mumble “hello.” He stayed mainly secluded in his home on Australia’s southeastern shore, living in squalor behind barricaded windows and locked doors.
Neighbors told 9 News Australia that the man, identified as Bruce Roberts, was discovered dead last year in his home in Greenwich, a suburb of Sydney’s Lower North Shore. Outside, old tires were still piled up with wood and pieces of cardboard, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Inside, it was much worse.
While clearing garbage from the house this week, crews uncovered a mummified body either under a rug or rolled up in one in the back of the house, neighbors told local news media. It was unclear how long the body had been decomposing in the home; police said in a statement that it had been there for “a considerable time.” Nor was it clear whether the quiet man who lived in the house had anything to do with the person’s death.
Authorities responded to the scene Tuesday and opened an investigation to determine who the person was and how he or she died.
“The occupant of the home died close to a year ago and the owners organised for the property to be cleaned this week,” police said Thursday in the statement. The authorities added that the recently discovered death is being “treated as suspicious.”
Police said Friday that a postmortem examination revealed that the person who died was a man in his 30s or 40s and that he had sustained numerous injuries leading up to his death, though a cause of death has not been determined, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“It is a mystery … and highly unusual,” acting superintendent Simon Jones said, according to the news organization. “We don’t get many jobs that occur like this.”
The ABC reported that police are still working to determine how the two men knew each other. Roberts, the man who lived in the home, is not currently a suspect.
Following the discovery, neighbors described Roberts as a “recluse” and a “hoarder,” according to the ABC.
Authorities have not confirmed the man’s name.
One neighbor said he came across as “childlike.”
“He was [in his] late 50s or 60s, had the same brown jacket on. He was childlike in a way. He just had no expressions, nothing,” the neighbor, who was not named, told the ABC.
“You’d say hello and he’d just mutter ‘hello’ or just not notice. He lived in this tiny little house on the corner. It’s completely overgrown, and you can see rubbish in the garden.”
Robert and Gayle Meagher, who said that they lived next door to the man for decades, told the news outlet that his parents owned the home and that he had lived there for 40 or 50 years.
“When he died, I was really upset, and I was worried that we were next door and what could we have done. But the home was not a very healthy environment, so there was nothing we could have done,” Gayle Meagher said.
She told 9 News Australia that she was saddened this week when crews discovered a second body inside the trash-filled home.
“The workmen who had been clearing the home said that they had found a body under a rug in the backroom,” she said, adding that she and her husband were “shaken” by the news. “It was very creepy.”
“It’s very sad, especially when you don’t know how it happened,” she told the station.
In a similar case this year in Wales, authorities were excavating a hoarder’s home and discovered a woman who lived there buried under piles of papers, and rushed her to a nearby hospital. The woman’s mother, who had also lived there, was later found dead.
This story, which was published May 31, has been updated.