An elderly woman lay dead unnoticed in a London flat for more than two years but her landlord received rent all along.
Met Police found the skeletal remains of Sheila Seleoane in February this year after receiving a phone call from a neighbour, an inquest heard.
The force believes the 61-year-old woman died in 2019 but nobody suspected it though there was no response when the gas supply to her flat was cut off during a check. Peabody, the housing association, said it “did not join the dots”.
As she could not make timely payment of her rent previously, she submitted an application to ensure that the periodic payment was made out of her benefits. This meant the landlord kept getting the rent although she passed away.
Three neighbours had reported her missing in 2020 but officers did not find sufficient reasons to force their way into her flat then.
In February this year, police found her skeletal remains in the recovery position. The balcony door of her house was open and the heating was turned off, suggesting she must have died during summer. The best-before date on the food found in her fridge indicated she died in August 2019. There were no signs that the house was burgled.
Detective Sergeant Scott Fisher told the inquest that he was called to the flat on February 18, 2022, when police found Seleoane’s body.
“In the doorway across the threshold were the remains of what we now know was Sheila Seleoane. I would describe her as lying in the recovery position used in first aid. They were skeletal remains” Fisher said.
“She had on what I imagine once was blue pyjamas and a white top and she was lying with her head towards the door on her right shoulder.”
He said the soiled clothing found in her bathroom and the presence of various medications in the flat pointed to her health issues.
“In my opinion, she passed around August 2019… The prescription medication ended around the summer of 2019. There was a receipt in her bag for a shop from August 2019,” the detective sergeant said.
“When looking in the fridge, the shortest shelf life was a dessert which was partially eaten and that’s approximately August 2019.”
Assistant coroner Dr Julian Morris said, “any death is sad, but to lie undetected for all likelihood for over two years is difficult to fathom in 2022.”