In 2006, Haringey Council rent collectors broke down the front door to a bedsit in a housing complex above Wood Green Shopping Centre, and found Joyce Vincent, a woman in her thirties, of Carribean and Indian descent, born in west London, and bred on Fulham Palace Road, sat on a sofa, just returned with the shopping, with the TV on, surrounded by Christmas presents, which she had just wrapped. Joyce, an attractive woman, had previously worked in the city for a shipping company, and for Ernst & Young and was said to have enjoyed an active social life, a life which included going out for dinner with Stevie Wonder and meeting Nelson Mandela. She dated a man named Martin regularly, taking in racing at Goodwood, tennis at Wimbledon, classical music, opera. She took elocution lessons, she was said to be interested in improving herself. When the rent inspectors arrived they had a look at the state of the flat, and found that with the exception of a large pile of washing up, things were as they should be. Oddly though, food in the refrigerator had expiry dates for February 2003, the month it seems, from which point Joyce’s body had begun to decompose, now in 2006, she was largely skeletal. Most of her body had been devoured over the years by small black insects, some of which were to be seen walking in and around the window frames and rooms of neighboring flats.
The isolation of Joyce Vincent whose rotting corpse laid unattended for three years on the couch of the flat, seemed to have something to do with:
- Domestic violence. She had been the victim of domestic violence, and had ended up living in a shelter for the vicitms of domestic violence. People who knew Joyce Vincent in her younger years described her as upwardly mobile and a high flyer.
- The loss of her mother, at the age of 11. Joyce was said to have a real bond, was said to have died at age 11.
- Neglect: apparently, no-one, including her neighbours, the companies that charged her for electricity, gas and water, the Council who had charged her rent, had been sufficiently interested to make contact with her and see how she was. I have read that her family hired a private investigator, but quite what they asked the investigator to do, and why the investigator was unable to track down Vincent is unclear.
- Contemplating the possibility of life without children, Joyce was 38 at the time she died.
Joyce Vincent’s death was bought to public attention by film director Carol Morley, who produced a documentary about the people that knew her. Peter Bradshaw commented that, “Joyce’s sisters declined to be interviewed, and the absence of testimony from them is arguably a problem, as is the absence of a clear description from Morley of how she approached them and in what terms she was rebuffed. It’s not easy to tell if, despite refusing to be interviewed on camera, they gave Morley off-the-record guidance. Perhaps they did.”