Housing association didn't chase missing rent from woman who lay dead in flat for two years

·3-min read
The woman lay dead in her flat in Peckham for more than two years. (Google)
The woman lay dead in her flat in Peckham for more than two years. (Google)

A woman lay dead in her flat for two and half years after her housing association took no action over her missing rent and repeated police visits failed to find anything suspicious.

Police found the skeletal remains of Sheila Seleone, 61, in her one-bedroom flat in Peckham, south east London, in February this year - but authorities estimate she had probably died there in August 2019

Officers broke through the door on 18 February after receiving reports from neighbours who were concerned for her welfare.

Residents had made several reports to the Peabody housing association - raising concerns about a bad smell, mail building up in her letterbox and not having seen her for some time.

Police had visited twice in October 2020 after receiving similar reports, but said they did not notice a bad smell and the officers did not feel there was enough evidence at the time to justify a forced entry.

Detective Sergeant Scott Fisher, who investigated the circumstances of the death, said: "In the doorway across the threshold was the remains lying in the recovery position.

"It was skeletal remains, she was wearing what were once pyjamas and a white top and was lying towards the door on her left shoulder."

The officer said that he did not believe the death to be suspicious because there had been no sign of forced entry into the property except by the police, and the flat was in an immaculate condition except for the area around the body.

He concluded that there had been no robbery or burglary because her jewellery and electrical goods were undisturbed and there was no sign of broken bones or trauma on her body.

Southwark Coroner's Court heard how the woman made a doctor's appointment but never turned up. (PA)
Southwark Coroner's Court heard how the woman made a doctor's appointment but never turned up. (PA)

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He said they believed she died in August because she had prescriptions for that month and the shortest-lived food in her kitchen expired around that time.

The last person Seleone spoke with was a GP on 14 August 2019 during a telephone consultation where she had been wheezing and coughing.

She had arranged to come in for a face-to-face meeting the following day but never showed.

Two months earlier she had a colonoscopy as she was suffering from inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn's disease.

Seleone had stopped paying her rent on August 20, 2019 and Wells Chomutare, Director of Neighbourhoods at Peabody, said the company began to receive reports about Seleone's welfare from June 2020, the same month they cut off her gas supply.

Chomutare said Peabody failed to communicate between three departments, its neighbourhood management, rent control and gas supply, and therefore could not piece together what was happening with regards to Seleone's property.

Ashling Fox, the Deputy Chief Executive of Peabody, said: "I think it is clear that while procedures were followed successfully, they were followed in a silo.

"The dots could have been joined up sooner and we could have raised the alarm more quickly."

She added: "We have nine customers left to make contact with who we have not spoken to for the last 12 months and we are currently developing a different way of working that would bring us closer to our customers."

A post-mortem could not determine a cause of death due to the decomposition of the body.