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

22 July 2022, 09:54

Sheila Seleoane, 58, was discovered in her flat 2 and a half years after she died
Sheila Seleoane, 58, was discovered in her flat 2 and a half years after she died. Picture: Google Street View

By Megan Hinton

A woman lay dead in her flat for two-and-a-half years after the Met police wrongly reported she was "safe and well" and a housing association failed to fully investigate neighbours' concerns.

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Sheila Seleoane, 58, was discovered in the recovery position at her "extremely tidy and well-kept" one bedroom flat years after she died, an inquest at Southwark coroners court heard.

Ms Seleoane had to be identified by dental records after her decomposed body was discovered in Peckham in February 2021, after her death in August 2019.

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

An inquest heard how concerned neighbours raised the alarm after Ms Seleoane had not been seen for several months and a "bad smell" began to fill the hallway outside of her flat.

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.

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

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A Met Police controller misinformed Peabody that Ms Seleoane had been seen alive and well after their visit, the inquest heard.

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.

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"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."