A man making his first visit to a home he bought in a foreclosure auction found the former owner's mummified body sitting on the living room couch, police said Tuesday.
Coroners estimate the woman's remains had been there since 2001, when she stopped making payments on the residence in the coastal town of Roses in Spain's northeast Catalonia region.
The body mummified instead of rotting partly because of the salty seaside air in Roses, a Catalan regional police official said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.
The woman, in her mid-50s, was estranged from her children in Madrid, and no one had reported her missing. She was not identified by officials.
Police said her death also went undetected because her ground-level apartment is in an area of vacation homes with a high turnover of travelers. In addition, police said, the woman spent a lot of time in Madrid with her mother. The whereabouts of the mother was unclear.
Roses Mayor Carles Paramo told the newspaper El Mundo it was normal that no one missed the woman because in housing developments like this one "people are not minding other people's business."
But authorities were surprised that bank officials who sold the residence after the foreclosure never bothered to examine it, the police official said.
Buyer Jordi Giro acquired the home last week. He visited it Saturday because a fire in the same building had forced the evacuation of some residents and he wanted to check for damage.