THE friends of a disabled man who died just five weeks after having his benefits stopped are appealing for his family to come forward so they can bury him.

Denis Jones, aged 58, was discovered in Tarleton Avenue, Atherton, on December 1 after a friend had become concerned at not seeing him for several days.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stopped his Employment Support Allowance after Mr Jones failed to return a form on time.

Police have established that Mr Jones died of natural causes, but are refusing to release Mr Jones’ body to his friends until they can trace his next of kin.

His pals are now appealing for his family to come forward so his funeral can be organised. Mr Jones had two brothers, Bryn and Stephen Jones, and it is believed one of them still lives in Westhoughton.

James McIntyre, a friend of Mr Jones, said: “This is an appeal for them to come forward because he was a friendly, popular guy and he deserves a decent funeral.

“I’ve known him for more than 20 years and he was almost like an uncle to my children. He was a guy who wanted to stand on his own two feet, but was reliant on food parcels and goodwill from friends by the end.”

Mr Jones had worked as a bouncer in Oldham before moving to Atherton 20 years ago, but struggled to find work before his health deteriorated and left him reliant on benefits.

He previously had been a member of the armed forces.

Mr McIntyre added: “It’s just so desperately sad that this has happened at this time of year. Really we’d like to bury him with his mum and dad in Oldham, but until the body is released that’s not possible.”

A DWP spokesman said: “We're fixing the benefits system to help improve the lives of some of the poorest people in our communities.

“Work is the best route out of poverty, but if someone is unable to work they can make a claim for Employment Support Allowance.

“However, we do require people to give us up-to-date information about their incapacity, as we know that conditions can change over time.”

Wigan Council said it was not contacted by Mr Jones to be notified of his benefits being stopped, and therefore was not in a position to help.