How do you lie dead for three years in a London flat? In 2006, a 38 year old black woman, Joyce Carol Vincent was found dead or rather her skeleton sitting in front of a stlll blaring TV, wrapping Christmas presents. She was wrapping presents. She had lovers, friends even family. How did this happen? Could it happen to one of my [ex]lovers, friends and family members? Could it happen to me? This isnt the first story of dying alone in London’s flatland or England or anywhere else. But somehow this was different. She was young, she had a life of people. How come no one came round, no one called, emailed? Where did all the letters go, why was the electricity and gas not cut off for three years? Why did it take three years for the flat to be repossessed? Where were the neighbours? What kind of people are we that anyone can die alone wrapping Christmas presents? Is this the meaning of loneliness? I am haunted as many are by thoughts of Joyce Carol Vincent. I think of myself alone in my London flat on Kilburn High Road on a cold winter’s night. What if I stopped breathing, who would come to look for me and how long would it take? I shudder at the thought. We all ask the same questions but it happened.
Last year a man was found dead after lying undiscovered for three years on a tiny island in St James Park. The Guardian reports more than 21,000 people a year die alone in the UK without family or friends to bury them. Most of them are elderly and poor abandoned shamefully by community and the state.
Dreams of Life – a film on Joyce Carol Vincent