The mummified body of an elderly man was found on the toilet in his council flat - up to a year and a half after he died, an inquest has heard.

Wandsworth Council's system was called into question as Westminster coroner Dr Paul Knapman asked why no one noticed Kenneth Barker's death sooner.

Police discovered the 62-year-old's corpse, along with that of his decomposed cat, at his home in Carslake Road, Putney, in February after a neighbour reported a bad smell Mr Barker had not paid rent since October 2006, but council officials had not checked whether he was still alive.

An earlier hearing heard grim details of the body's mummified condition.

Dr Peter Wilkins said: "The external skin was firm and had the appearance of parchment. The organs had mummified as well."

Three council employees were called to the resumed inquest last week, where no friends or family of Mr Barker attended.

Rent collector Beverley Patrice-Farrell said numerous unanswered letters were sent before she began working for the council last September. She visited the Ashburton Estate property in person three times, once with a notice to seek possession.

She said: "I visited again in December, I opened the letter box, looked around. I couldn't smell a thing."

Mrs Patrice-Farrell said she contacted other council departments about Mr Barker several times because of her concerns.

Dr Knapman then asked head of rent collection Faria Siblon: "Would you agree that it's a very unsatisfactory situation for somebody, if it's true, to be dead in a council flat for one-and-a-half years, not paying rent?"

She replied: "It's unsatisfactory, yes."

As alcoholic Mr Barker's rent was largely covered by housing benefit, his arrears of £265 made him a low priority among the council's 10,000 cases.

Mrs Siblon said it was not the "prime focus" of the rent collection service to alert other departments to problems, and there was no set procedure for doing so.

She admitted there had been a shortage of staff, but that the problem is being remedied.

Dr Knapman said there had been other similar cases involving Wandsworth and also highlighted the authority's low council tax rate - possibly the lowest in the country.

He said: "It may be that we will seek clarification from very senior people just to see if there is any way that we can put in place, at reasonable cost, some sort of system."

The case will be reviewed in private on June 2 and a verdict recorded at a later date.