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The body of a German pensioner who died at home in 2015 was not found until almost three years later when the landlord finally sent workmen to renovate the residence. With no-one enquiring after him and neighbours taking little notice, the man's corpse lay where he died from May 2015 until its discovery in January 2018.

The 72-year-old is thought to have died from natural causes. Police worked out the date of his death from a newspaper left open on a table in his home, reported German news sources saying.

His landlord had no idea that his tenant had died as the rent was paid promptly each month via a standing order. With a high turnover of tenants in the building in Duisburg there was no reason to suspect anything out of the ordinary, reports said.

The landlord started to suspect that something might be wrong when he increased the rent in 2016 and sent the man, at the time lying dead, a series of letters saying he had fallen behind on payments. In late 2017 a workman changed the locks on the apartment but failed to notice anything wrong.

It was not until the landlord sent more workmen to renovate the apartment last month that the heavily decomposed body was finally discovered. Little more than the skeleton was left.

According to Age UK, 1.9 million older people in Britain feel ignored or invisible, with 3.6 million of them living alone. Loneliness is not just a psychological issue but can have a devastating effect on physical health too, the charity said. Loneliness was as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

It can lead to depression, hypertension and heightened vascular resistance.