THE bodies of a mother and son have been found in their home. The pair, named locally as Elizabeth and Robert Douthwaite, were discovered in Heron Drive, South Shields.
A window cleaner is said to have raised the alarm at around 12.20pm on Thursday.
Robert, 44, was a keen photographer and in the 1990s was commissioned by South Shields Library to take pictures for a book comparing the town’s past and present.
He painstakingly visited landscapes and streets in the area to retrace the steps of previous photographers.
He then snapped the same frames decades on.
The book, called South Shields Then & Now, revealed how the area had changed over the years and the book was popular with local historians.
A library worker said: “The book was published in 1996 and it was a good seller. It is no longer published, but we sold lots of copies.”
Today, neighbours and friends paid tribute to 73-year-old Elizabeth and Robert.
Robin Johnson, 71, of nearby Wellington Drive, said: “A window cleaner spotted something was wrong. He said a light had been on for a couple of weeks.
“It is such a shame.
“The pair were lovely. But we all keep ourselves to ourselves and they did the same.
“We knew them but we hadn’t seen them for a while and then we heard the news.
“Robert was a great photographer. He loved taking pictures and he was very good at it.
“He took the pictures for a book made by South Shields Library about the town.
“That was his passion, taking pictures.”
Robin’s wife Sheila, 68, said: “They had lived in that house for 30 years or more. Her husband died a few years ago and it hit them hard.”
Retired process worker, John Holt, 68, a dad-of-two who lives only doors away from Elizabeth and Robert, said: “They were nice people. We have all lived here for 30 years when the houses were first built.
“My son is younger than Robert but they knew each other.
“It is such a shock.”
Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: “Robert was a handsome young man and a good photographer and a lovely person.
“No one really bothers each other, but someone is always there if you need them. This is so sad. It gets me upset when I talk about it.
“It was when her husband died that things hit rock-bottom for them.”
Linda Stains, 58, manager of the Clasper Court extra care facility opposite Robert and Elizabeth’s house, said: “It is a shame and a shock.
“It’s a quiet area and I hate to think that they had been poorly and no one knew.”
Their deaths follow a similar incident involving inseparable pensioners Jim and Marjorie Arnett.
They were found dead in their house on Biddlestone Road, Heaton, Newcastle, on Wednesday, January 9.
Officers are treating the deaths of the couple, who were both in their 80s, as unexplained but have ruled out third-party involvement.
Forensic tests are being carried out to establish the exact cause.
It is understood neither a gas leak nor carbon monoxide poisoning was the cause of the deaths.
Northumbria Police said there was no third-party involvement with the Douthwaites’ deaths and a report will be prepared for the coroner.