Sheila Seleoane’s skeletal remains were found on the couch of her apartment more than two years after her death went unnoticed, authorities in London say.
A local court opened an investigation to find out how she died, when — and why no one noticed.
Little is known about Seleoane, the daughter of a South African emigrant who grew up in Britain. Even her age — 58, according to BBC’s reporting, but 61, according to The Standard’s reporting of her death certificate — is uncertain. She lived alone in South London and worked as a medical secretary.
Sometime in 2019, late summer or fall, Seleoane died, News 24 reported.
But no one noticed.
In February 2022, London Metropolitan Police forced their way into her apartment and found her decomposing remains on the couch, dressed in blue pajamas and a white shirt with deflated balloons nearby, The Daily Mail reported.
Officials identified her remains using dental records, but could not determine her cause of death because of the “advanced state of decomposition,” BBC reported.
On July 21, London’s Inner South Coroner’s Court held a hearing to investigate her mysterious and unnoticed death, News 24 reported.
Seleoane’s doctor last saw her in August 2019, BBC reported. That same month, she stopped paying rent.
In September, her neighbors complained to Peabody Trust, the landlord of the building, about a terrible smell coming from Seleoane’s apartment that filled the hallway, BBC reported.
One resident said they contacted the landlord more than 50 times, The Daily Mail reported. Eventually, the smell began to fade.
By March 2020, the landlord began taking Seleoane’s rent out of her Universal Credit, monthly payments from the British government.
In June, her gas was shut off, BBC reported.
In mid-October 2020, officers visited Seleoane’s home twice in one week to check on her welfare, The Standard reported. They never made contact with her but inaccurately told her landlord that she was “safe and well.”
The landlord “took no other steps to investigate,” The Standard reported.
Seleone’s mail continued to pile up, increasingly concerning her neighbours, The Guardian reported.
On Feb. 18, 2022, Storm Eunice hit Britain, causing widespread chaos and blowing open the windows of Seleoane’s apartment, The Guardian reported.
Hearing banging sounds coming from the apartment, Seleoane’s neighbors called the police to check on her, according to The Daily Mail. Only when officers returned for the third time did they find Seleone’s remains.
Coroner Julian Morris said at the July 21 hearing that, “Any death is sad. To lie undetected for in all likelihood over two years, is difficult to fathom in 2022,” BBC reported.
Seleoane’s only remaining family is her estranged brother in Britain and long-lost relatives in South Africa, News 24 reported. Her remains were sent to South Africa where she was buried.
According to The Standard, officials now believe she died of natural causes, likely related to the “wheezing and breathing difficulties” she told her doctor about during her August 2019 visit.
The failure of her landlord and police to notice her death prompted independent investigations to provide recommendations for avoiding another similar scenario, The Standard reported.
Peabody Trust has apologized to residents, but all those living on Seleoane’s floor have requested to move, The Guardian reported.