Paralysed from the waist down, epileptic, deaf and registered blind, pensioner Valerie McLaren had nothing but scorn for anybody who dared say she was disabled.
As full time carer to her even more debilitated husband, she had one great fear: that social services would step in and put him in a home.
“We survived the Blitz, and we can survive this,” she would say, as she heated meals from tins and painfully dusted and swept to keep her Great Linford bungalow immaculate.
Edward McLaren, one year her senior at 73, was also paraplegic. A stroke had rendered him incapable of speech but, to even the most casual observer, it was obvious he was devoted to his wife of five decades. He was equally devoted to his home. “The only way we will leave here is if they carry us out in a coffin,” Valerie would say.
This month her wish came true – but in the most tragic circumstances.
Police were called to the bungalow after the McLarens’ daughters reported the phone had been unanswered for 11 days.
They found the badly decomposed body of Valerie in one bedroom and the body of Edward in a pool of blood in another.
It is believed Valerie died first of natural causes. Her husband, panicking that she was not answering his calls for help, fell and hit his head when he tried to clamber out of bed to find her.
This week their son-in-law Keith Aitchison said: “It is all very sad but in a funny kind of way it’s what they would have wanted. They died together and they were independent to the very end.”
He said his wife, who is also in a wheelchair, called on the couple regularly. Younger daughter Heidi, who lived four doors away from the Hills Close bungalow, was another frequent visitor, he said.
This week the family was being attacked by Internet trolls on social media sites because the pensioners’ bodies were undetected for so long.
But Keith insisted: “We did visit them during that period but we thought mum hadn’t heard us knocking. We had a key but mum always said it should only be used for emergencies. We just didn’t realise this was an emergency.”
> Valerie and Edward will be buried side by side in a city cemetery.
Later this year an inquest will examine how they slipped through the net of health and social care.
The family say the couple beggged to be left alone and had a “morbid fear” of social workers putting them in a care home or separating them.