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Woman lived with boyfriend's corpse and masked the smell with candles

A woman who lived with the corpse of her dead boyfriend masked the smell of his rotting body with scented candles, a court heard.

Angela Irwin, 54, lived with Robin McMaster’s decomposing body for more than a week after he died aged 40 in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, last November.

After his death, she told his worried relatives he was in bed with back pain and continued to claim his prescription medication.

In a statement read out in court, Robin’s mum said her son had been ‘left like a piece of rotting meat’.

Irwin, whose address was given as Holywell Hospital in Antrim, admitted preventing the lawful burial of a corpse.

She also admitted a charge of false representation on 21 November, 2018, when she ordered prescription medication from a GP on the pretence that it was for her boyfriend.

Antrim Crown Court heard that a plumber doing repairs at the couple’s flat on 15 November quizzed Irwin about a smell in the home.

Then on 22 November, Robin’s brother went to the flat after becoming concerned and found scented candles burning.

Irwin told him Robin was in bed with back pain and couldn’t be disturbed.

When his brother ‘barged past’ her to the bedroom, he found Robin’s body, which was by this point ‘severely decomposed’.

Irwin was arrested on suspicion of murder but an autopsy found his death was ‘most likely’ caused by an overdose of Tramadol and other prescription drugs.

The court heard that when Robin’s mum checked on her son, Irwin told her he was unwell and gave details of what he had eaten, even though he was already dead.

She said: ‘She kept my son lying there like a piece of rotting meat.

‘I was unable to touch his hair or tell him goodbye. I am serving a life sentence as a broken mother.’

Robin’s brother now suffers from PTSD as a result of discovering his body.

A prosecution barrister said police investigating the case found Robin had not been seen since 13 November – nine days before his body was found.

Medical evidence suggested he could have been dead for two to three weeks given the level of decomposition, the prosecutor said.

A day before his body was found, Irwin claimed his GP prescriptions for sleeping tablets and antihistamines.

The court heard she had abused prescription medication and suffered from anxiety and depression.

Irwin’s defence barrister said she wanted to ‘convey her unreserved apology and sympathy’ to Robin’s family.

Antrim Crown Court Judge Melody McReynolds said it was ‘a very tragic case’.

The judge told Irwin she had been living a ‘sad and squalid’ life at the time of the incident, and ‘simply lived in a retreated world and denied what was happening’.

Irwin was given a two-year sentence – one to be served in prison and one on licence.

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