'Maggots infested my home': woman who lived below her neighbour's corpse for 2 years reveals 'horror movie' life

3 April 2023, 10:30

Sheila Seleoane
Sheila Seleoane. Picture: Handout/Google Street Views

By Kit Heren

A woman who lived in the flat below a neighbour who died two and a half years before her body was found has told of the "horror movie" conditions she lived in as maggots "took over" her home.

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Chantel, which is an assumed name, was the downstairs neighbour of Sheila Seleoane, who died in a housing association block in Peckham in August 2019 and was only found in February 2022.

Ms Seleoane, 61, was discovered by police who knocked her door down after years of complaints by residents, which landlord Peabody did not act on, they claim.

Neighbours in Lord's Court discussed the "smell of death", as Chantel told of maggots falling from a light fitting when she changed the bulb.

Now residents of the block are planning to sue Peabody for not acting on their complaints, according to reports.

Chantel told the BBC: "I've got [maggots] in the bedroom, the living room, and the bathroom. And more or less all over my furniture.

Sheila Seleoane
Sheila Seleoane. Picture: Handout

"You'd sit down on the sofa and after a period of time you'd find a squashed maggot. It was like living in a horror movie."

Chantel added: "It's just really sad that somebody could be in their flat for so long and not be found, nobody going out of their way to gain contact with her."

Her neighbours also spoke of their concerns before Ms Seleoane was found.

Another resident of the block, Audrey, remembered a smell "like a dead body" as she took the lift up to the third floor after coming back from a work trip.

She said: "It made me feel sick. I could taste it. It was just horrible."

Audrey said: "That's the one thing that I regret - that I believed Peabody. I regret not calling the police sooner, because I just trusted that they were going to do something."

Lord's Court
Lord's Court. Picture: Google Street View

Others even tried putting towels under the door to block out the smell from Ms Seleoane's flat.

Donatus Okeke, who lives with his wife and three children, said: "We couldn't even sleep in the flat. You couldn't even eat because it was a very, very bad odour."

Iyesha, another neighbour, also got in touch with Peabody several times. "I kept calling saying there's a smell of death/ Nobody came."

In an apology after the inquest, Peabody's chief executive Ian McDermott said: "We weren't asking the fundamental question: is Sheila OK?

"We've apologised to the family. We're deeply sorry for what happened. The biggest apology though I think does go to the residents of Lord's Court. They did tell us that something was wrong."

Ms Seleoane's inquest revealed that she had to be identified by dental records after her decomposed body was discovered in Peckham.

This caller shares her housing difficulties

She had not paid rent since August 2019 and Peabody started taking rent payments out of her Universal Credit benefits in March 2020, they later cut off her gas supply in June 2020.

Police attended the property in October 2020 and received no response but said they did not have lawful grounds to force entry into the home and no action was taken.

Read more: Woman lay dead in London flat for over two years after police said she was 'safe and well'

Read more: Tragic details emerge of woman, 61, who lay dead in London flat for over two years

A second officer was called out by housing association Peabody six days later but they also came to the same conclusion.

Police eventually forced entry to the home after complaints that her balcony door was repeatedly banging and officers discovered her skeletal remains wearing wearing blue pyjamas and a white top.

After hearing the evidence Dr Julian Morris said.

"There was a delay in raising any flags, there was no real communication as between rent, gas, and neighbourhood manager teams for someone who had until August 2019 and for over five years been in effect a model tenant.

"The lack of rent payment, non-communication with all three departments, and the necessity to cap off her gas supply didn’t trigger any increased suspicion that something might be wrong."

Concluding the inquest, the coroner said Ms Seleoane had died from "unknown causes" adding: "Any death is sad. To lie undetected for in all likelihood over two years is difficult to fathom in 2022."