Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Journal, RIP

A city of loneliness disguised – if YOU disappeared would anyone miss you?

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


  1. “”We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship, can we create the illusion for a moment that we’re not alone.” ~ Orson Welles

    And may I recommend to you and your readers:

  2. Comment by post author


    Yes I agree that love and friendship or the practice of humanity / compassion is our protection against living and dying alone. But no one is born alone. At the very least we spend up to 9 months in our mothers womiSync in most cases she is with us when we are born! Thanks for the link. Which I will check

  3. Mia Nikasimo

    Precisely. I remember a similar sitaution when I lived in the Newington Green area of North London. It is that dull malaise that people indulge in as an excuse for community. A woman died and no one knew for days just like that and then the stench got so overpowering that something had to be done or the “landlord” risked losing tenants and suddenly he was around to find out why he wasn’t getting his rent from one particular tenant. All the complaints of a stench didn’t matter a bit.

    The door was open and there lay the corpse of a woman -dead! Which brings me back to Joyce Vincent and the rest of us as human beings. In the days up to discovering Joyce somethings must have happened. What did? And for the rest of us, what is happening to us as a species? What happened to our humanity?

  4. Comment by post author


    I wonder how often this happens in other countries in the west where the elderly are left to fend for themselves. As for why Joyce was discovered when she was – I think the council had come round to repossess the flat after non payment of rent. The question is why did they wait 3 years to collect rent arrears? I still cant get my head around the fact that Joyce Vincent was wrapping xmas presents and the intended recipients never came to look for her or wondered where she was? Am I missing something or is this a huge tragedy?