Neighbours of a man who lay dead in his South Dunedin home for more than six weeks say he was "reclusive" and would sometimes not answer his door or calls.

The badly decomposed body of John Burrows Baird, 74, was discovered in his Playfair St home by police on Friday night, after they were contacted by a pharmacist concerned Mr Baird had not collected his medication for some time.

It is understood he collected medicine every two weeks, but had not done so since January.

The death is not being treated by police as suspicious.


Mr Baird's unkempt Caversham property was relatively isolated from neighbours, whose properties were either set back from, or behind it, and from where they would not have been able to easily see vehicle movements to and from the property.

A couple, who declined to be named, living across the street from Mr Baird said he had become "very reclusive" in recent years.

They said they had only spoken to the man once in the 60 years they had lived on Playfair St.

"It really upsets me. I don't like to think people die like that.

"It's a very sad scenario to think we sat here and didn't do anything about it."

The couple said they had chosen not to do anything because they were busy looking after their disabled son who needed 24 hour care.

"We're reclusive ourselves. If there was trouble here, there's nobody I could go to. We don't know any of our neighbours.

"We could be in the same situation as [Mr Baird].

"Nobody ever comes and says are you all right? Are you managing?"

They said they were more likely to say hello to their neighbours while walking up George St than looking over their back fence.

"It's a really sad indictment on society when you have to go to town to meet your neighbours."

Another neighbour said he had noticed there had been no lights on for up to four weeks, the mailbox was jammed with mail and the grass was getting long.

"But we didn't think to check on him. We were just minding our own business.

"That's the way it is - you just mind your own business - don't get involved.

"That just seems to be the way it is in South Dunedin."

He was unaware Mr Baird had passed away until the police arrived.

"In hindsight, I would have checked to see if he was okay."

Another neighbour said she left for work early in the morning and came home late in the day.

If it had been winter, she may have noticed that his lights were not on.

"You feel a bit terrible ... I have spoken to him in the past, but he was very private.

"He was a solitary man - he wouldn't speak to people much. He seemed to be a nice man."

One woman visiting her elderly parents on Playfair St said her parents had checked on Mr Baird from time to time in the past, but had themselves been away and more recently, busy dealing with their own health issues.

She said Mr Baird kept to himself and was known not to answer the door or calls sometimes, and his property was generally a bit scruffy, so nothing had been noticeably different in that area.

What had happened was very sad, she said.

Snr Sgt Bruce Ross, of the Dunedin police, said the coroner had been notified of the death and family in Auckland had been contacted.