Michael Christopher Flavell was a "gentle giant" - a tall, large man who loved company, but died alone.

The Napier man never wanted to be the centre of attention, but his death has placed a spotlight on him, and those like him who live out their final days with no one around them.

Flavell is one of two men in the Hawke's Bay city whose bodies were found recently after lying undiscovered in their homes for weeks.

Detective Mike Signal said it was both sad and concerning that the two of them didn't have anyone looking out for their wellbeing.


"It may be a reflection of our times where we don't know our neighbours or keep an eye on things as well as we used to," Signal said.

Neighbours noticed they hadn't seen Flavell in several weeks in September. They called police who found him on September 10, aged 72.

The son of Les and Winnie and brother of Glenice, all of his immediate family had died before him. No wife, or children. His uncle, Timothy William Desmond "Chum" Ireland, most notably played for the Magpies and lived into his 100s.

But despite this, it was his friendship with Doug Boyd that stood the test of time.

They met when Boyd was just 19 at the Taradale Cricket Club. Both avid sports players - cricket and bowls were how they bonded.

They watched each other grow old and spent almost every day together in some way or another. When Flavell returned from working in Auckland in the early 80s, he moved back into his old family home on Shakespeare Rd, but would still visit every Sunday for a roast dinner.

"He was like an uncle figure. We always used to be excited when he would come on a Sunday," Boyd's daughter, Julia Smith said.

She recalls walking to his home after school at Napier Girls' High School when her parents couldn't pick her up.

When Doug Boyd died in February 2016, Flavell still kept in touch with his "girls".

"He used to ring us sometimes and we would ring him. A couple of times we would take him to the Napier RSA for an afternoon and call in now and again. We tried to keep that relationship going."

She last spoke to Michael "a few months ago". "He seemed quite happy and okay, she recalls fondly.

It was only when the police called her family last month that they found out he had gone. Flavell was a diabetic and it's thought the disease may have caused his death.

Lance Connolly wasn't "surprised or shocked" when he too received the phone call about Flavell's death from the police.

Instead he was "saddened" that he had been in the house for that period of time.

He had first met Michael at Marist School in 1955. Connolly moved to Taranaki for more than 27 years, but he still used "call up to the Napier Cosmopolitan Club and have a beer and catch up with the younger Flavell, who was a barman at the establishment.

"He was a gentleman - very polite. He looked after his mum for years and would do anything for anyone."

Connolly moved back to the region, when they renewed their friendship, and he would entertain him and his mother at his house until her passing in 2011.

They would listen to his favourite song - Janis Joplin's 1969 hit, Me & Bobby McGee.

Then Flavell's mother died.

Things "changed", Connolly said.

He wouldn't answer his door or his telephone. He became a bit of a recluse. I would hammer the s... out of his door and eventually I would get a hold of him."

On some occasions, he had to contact the police for them to check in on him. They last saw each other in The Warehouse, where they talked about life in general and Michael's health and diabetes.

But on his final birthday - August 28 - just 13 days before he was found, Connolly wanted to contact his friend or go to his house, but decided against it. He doesn't know why.

It is unknown whether he was alive or not at that time, but Connolly hopes he was.

Informal gatherings, organised by the Boyd family were held at the Hastings Crematorium and the Taradale Community and Sports Club last month. About 50 people gathered, from different stages of Michael's life to remember him.

The Boyd family and Connolly are planning to scatter his ashes close to his family.


- Introduce yourself
- Ask if they need help with certain tasks
- Swap phone numbers
- Provide company
- Check on them in emergencies


Do the lights come on at night?
Do the curtains get drawn?
Is the garden tended?
Has mail accumulated?

If you are concerned about your elderly neighbour seek advice from police or Age Concern.