Tributes have been paid to a reclusive father and son who were discovered ‘mummified’ in their shared home weeks after they had passed away.
An inquest into the deaths of Charles and Paul Barrett, aged 94 and 63 respectively, found the pair had died in ‘unascertained circumstances’ prior to their discovery by neighbours on July 5.
Dad Charles – a retired senior auditor formerly known as Carlos Barreto – is thought to have died where he was found in his bed at their Northridge Way home, Hemel Hempstead. His retired electrical engineer son Paul had died in the bath after cutting his arms.
Senior coroner for Herts Edward Thomas ruled the exact causes of both deaths were unascertainable because post-mortem results were inconclusive, but it is likely they had been dead for weeks due to the level of decomposition and ‘mummification’.
The pair had been described as ‘loners’ who rarely socialised, and though they were invited to family events, didn’t often attend. They were the only occupants of their home – aside from numerous cats.
Charles’ sister-in-law and Paul’s aunt Sue Riddlestone, who lives in Surrey, said: “Charles and Paul were both lovely people, good citizens and members of society who both held down responsible and important jobs which they carried out in a professional manner.
“Charles was a real gentleman – everybody would say that they really liked him as a person. He was witty, cultured, kind and thoughtful.
“Paul was also very kind, especially to those less fortunate or more vulnerable than himself. In particular he was so kind to the children of family and friends. He gave a lot of money to Save the Children and other animal and children’s charities. He mentored more junior engineers at work and helped them to develop their professional skills.”
During the inquest, held on Wednesday, November 19, it was revealed Paul had written his father’s initials on a calendar space for June 6.
Consultant pathologist Dr Lutful Wahab, who carried out the examinations on both bodies at Hemel Hempstead Hospital, said this could ‘feasibly’ have been the date of Charles’ death – which was ruled by Mr Thomas to be of an unknown, but natural, cause.
The date was also that of the last known communication Paul made – an email to a friend about a technical support issue.
The following day, on June 7, Paul accepted an Ocado grocery delivery but subsequently cancelled the following week’s order. He also emptied his bin and laid out extra food and water for the pet cats.
After neighbours became concerned for the pair’s welfare the following month, Paul was discovered alongside knives and blood, but Mr Thomas said it was not possible to prove whether he had intended to fatally harm himself.
No suicide note was found, but a piece of paper on which Paul had written his full name was discovered.
The coroner said: “I am clear Charles died first. The cause of is unascertainable – but there was nothing to suggest there was anything unnatural about his death.
“I think it is reasonable to assume Paul’s wounds were self-inflicted, but in order to say that he committed suicide I have to be satisfied that that was the act which caused his death. It is a possibility Paul cut himself because he was in distress, so I am recording an open verdict.”
During proceedings family members thanked the pathologist for his help, and recalled happier times with Charles and Paul.
Both men were described as highly intelligent and talented, while it was revealed Paul even had patents after his name.
Relative Sue added: “The Barrett family as a whole contributed a lot to society and as early residents of Hemel Hempstead new town in their different ways.
“As a family we are very proud of them and so sorry that they have now all died.”