There wasn't much of a mystery yesterday about how a retired police officer and his mother died. The question was why nobody missed them for more than a year.

Water Department workers, responding to a report of a leak, broke into the ivy-covered brick home on Bustleton Avenue at Larkspur Street, Somerton, after their knocks went unanswered, police said.

Inside, they found a ghastly scene of an apparent murder-suicide. The stench of dirty water that had soaked through the floor had mixed with the odor of death in the house.

A rotted body reportedly sat in a bedroom chair, a five-shot pistol nearby. Another body lay in the bed, police said.

The windows were shut and all the doors were locked, said police.

"They were completely decomposed skeletal remains," Chief Inspector Scott Small told reporters yesterday.

Police said they wouldn't identify the bodies until the Medical Examiner's Office releases the cause of death. There were no next of kin to notify.

Neighbors said, and real estate records show, that John Connor, who would have been 56, and his elderly mother, Assunta Connor, who would have been 84, had lived in the home since the 1980s.

A police source said Connor retired from the force in 1996. He had been assigned to the 8th District at Academy and Red Lion roads.

Investigators found a suicide note in the home, police said. The note reportedly said that Connor could no longer cope with his mother's advanced Alzheimer's.

"It's a little spooky," said neighbor Ken Mannino, 45. "It's a shame that nobody was able to help them and maybe get her into a nursing home."

Connor rarely talked to the neighbors, and once sent Mannino a nasty note after Mannino parked too close to his green Pontiac Grand Prix, Mannino said.

Mannino said the Pontiac hadn't been moved in a year, which was about the last time he saw Connor, at Home Depot.

While the mother and son were always "pretty reclusive," Mannino said, their lawn was always well-groomed. But about a year ago, the bushes started to grow out of control.

Someone called the city to clear out the Connor yard, which became the blight of the block, Mannino said.

Mayoral spokesman Ted Qualli said the city's Community Life Improvement Program came out twice in the past year to trim the Connors' yard.

The city mailed the Connors their first violation on May 16, 2006, Qualli said, but didn't get a response.

A crew visited the home two weeks later and fixed up the plants.

The city sent out complaint No. 2 on Aug. 16 and worked on the yard again a month later. The Connors were responsible for paying the city back for the yard work, Qualli said, but obviously never did.

Overgrown bushes yesterday lined the Connors' lawn, acting as a hedge blocking the property from the sidewalk.

For three years, Julie Feldman, 50, has lived across from the Connors, but never met her neighbors. "I never seen anyone enter or leave the house," she said. *