Sheila Seleoane, 61 year old UK woman lay dead in London flat for 2 years, her abrupt disappearance unnoticed as an inquest is to commence this coming week.
An inquest is to hear this coming week how a 61 year old medical secretary came to die in her London flat in 2019, with her body only discovered some two and half years later.
Sheila Seleoane, British born, described as a solitary spinster by distant relatives in South Africa whom she had never met, lived in the outer burroughs of Peckham in a non descript apartment building.
Family said Seleoane had no family in the U.K save for an estranged brother who is a convicted murderer the dailymail reported.
Her relatives have since flown the woman’s body back to South Africa where she was provided a funeral and laid to rest following the discovery of her body in February by police.
Of disconcert is how Seleoane’s abrupt disappearance went unnoticed for so long, why colleagues at her office failed to notify authorities, or why for that matter utility companies never once questioned her unpaid bills along with her landlord, the Peabody Trust, the affordable-housing charity from which she rented her flat.
“Posing earnestly for her passport photo, this is the only known image of Sheila Seleoane, the solitary spinster whose body lay undiscovered for two-and-a-half years after she died in her London flat” https://t.co/WEeDtidwDd
— DOK – Ayanfẹ – Idẹra de 27 (@PrinceofSydney) July 16, 2022
Funeral services and neigbhors left asking how
According to the dailymail, only two mourners attended her funeral in the U.K on April 19, at Croydon Crematorium, a few miles from where she was found: her brother Victor, a convicted murderer from whom she was estranged, and a representative of Peabody.
It wasn’t until the woman’s distant family in South Africa were notified of Sheila Seleoane’s death (by a dailymail journalist who had the good decency to trace Seleoane’s extended roots in the hopes of notifying other possible family members) that the relatives incensed by the Seleoane’s abandonment decided to give her a proper funeral – despite never having met the spinster.
Sheila Seleoane was honored last month with a traditional Methodist ceremony, and burial in the family plot. To their credit, Peabody did arrange and pay for Miss Seleoane’s remains to be flown to South Africa.
According to the dailymail, funeral services were held in a packed chapel, with members of Seleoane’s sprawling family having traveled many miles to attend. One of those attendees was Seleoane’s sister, Bella Brooms, one of her two surviving siblings.
Neighbors at the London flat have been left beguiled, incredulous as to how Seleoane’s death could have gone unnoticed. Perhaps her body may have continued to remain unattended to, save for one neighbor in the building who repeatedly reported her suspicions that Miss Seleoane had died – but to no avail.
Miss Seleoane is known to have died sometime in the late summer or autumn of 2019. Alarmed by the overpowering smell that filled the corridors, residents repeatedly raised concerns with Peabody.
When her mail started to accumulate and a forced entry notification for a normal gas check landed on her door in 2020, neighbors started to get more and more worried. A neighbor said, ‘We repeatedly called the housing association because it was weird. The police came but they said lots of people had moved out of London during the pandemic and she could be abroad.’ A short while later, a bike was left in front of her home, and again, neighbors protested when it wasn’t taken away.
Did police drop the ball? Mystery footsteps heard
Seleoane who worked as a medical secretary was a temp with Lifeline Personnel in her fifties. But after February 20, 2015, the company claims to have no payroll records for her. Which begets the question, how was she being paid and for whom was she contracted out to and did they not miss the worker or enquire about her whereabouts? Or is this how temping services work as faceless contractors come and go?
Miss Seleoane’s remains were discovered, propped on the sofa and apparently flanked by deflated party balloons (the presence of which is yet another mystery) when, finally, police broke into the flat in February this year.
Police say they are satisfied there was nothing untoward about her death and that she died naturally — though whether a pathologist can pinpoint the precise cause with certainty after such a long period of decomposition remains to be seen.
Of disconcert is a neighbor’s claim, living below Seleoane who told of having heard footsteps from the apartment during winter last year.
In February, when Miss Seleoane’s balcony windows — which had been closed for more than two years — began to bang open and shut, this same resident raised the alarm.
Police arrived to find her white-painted door locked from the inside, with a months-old notice warning that gas contractors were about to be cut off Sellotaped to it. For reasons unknown, this threat was never carried out. But when the police broke in they found her skeletal remains.
Could someone have accessed the dead woman’s flat?
The inquest will seek to discover whether someone could have accessed the flat by other means during the estimated 30 months that Seleoane lay dead.
‘For at least two months, in September and October, 2021, scaffolding was erected so the outside of the building could be painted, so someone could have climbed up to the fourth floor,’ a neighbor told the dailymail, speculating that it might have been a prospective burglar or rough-sleeper.
Another resident claims to have heard someone climbing the scaffolding in the months before the body was discovered.
The suspicions were reported to Peabody, for they were addressed by Pablo Cazar, the trust’s Head of Neighbourhoods — South, in a letter to residents dated April 6.
‘From our visits and conversations, we know many of you have questions, and we are sharing what we can in this letter,’ he wrote according to the dailymail.
‘The police have confirmed that Ms Seleoane died of natural causes, and they are not treating her death as suspicious. Although there have been reports from residents that people may have entered Ms Seleoane’s flat in the past two years, the police have decided not to open a criminal investigation on this basis.’
But what of reports of a reeking apartment and the police’s initial visit to the flat. According to the neighbors, no one would come to check while the building was on lockdown during the pandemic.
Prompted by neighbour’s concerns, police were eventually persuaded to visit the stinking flat in October 2020. According to one neighbour, officers then reported they had ‘made contact’ with the occupant and established she was ‘safe and well’.
Peabody confirmed the account to the dailymail, saying the police’s message of reassurance led them to believe ‘everything was fine’.
Which raises the awkward question, why would the officers have said that when, by that time, Miss Seleoane had been dead for a year?
Though the Met Police admit to attending the address that month — on two separate occasions — they told the dailymail ‘it was not deemed by the officers that there were sufficient grounds to enter the premises’.
Peabody has repeatedly expressed contrition over this case. But there was more to come. Barely a month after Miss Seleoane’s body was found, the trust came under scrutiny again.
Inside Housing magazine revealed that the body of another of its residents, Terry Watkins, who was in his 60s, had been found in his low-rent flat in Westminster — several months after his neighbours began raising concerns about his welfare with Peabody.
A spokesman insisted that the circumstances were very different, adding that it was ‘difficult to see how we could have known about this situation’.
In relation to Miss Seleoane’s case, he said there was no evidence that anyone had entered her flat. Police had ‘declined to investigate this’, the spokesperson told the dailymail.
Yet the question remains, how did a decent, professional woman be allowed to vanish without so much as a care? And what does that suggest about the civilized society so many of us have come to assiduously believe we live in?