A woman was found in her London flat, skeletonised, after 3 years of being dead - with the TV still running.
Hoax or Fact:
Fact with small misinformation.
This is a famous and saddening story of a woman who was supposedly found dead in front of the Television running - in the form of a skeleton, after 3 years of her death. Yes, the story is a fact, the woman being 38-year-old Joyce Carol Vincent, whose skeleton was found after nearly 2 years and one month; not 3 years as such.
Discovery of Death
The discovery of Joyce Vincent's death was made on 25 January 2006, when officials of a north London housing association wanted to repossess her bedsit in Wood Green owing to rent arrears. The officials were shocked to see the woman's skeleton lying on the sofa and in a corner of the room was the television set still on, tuned to BBC1. The dead body of Joyce Vincent was so badly decomposed that her identity could only be found by comparing her dental records with an old holiday photograph of her smiling.
The way in which Joyce died in front of her TV set and no one came to know about it for more than 2 years created a shock among public and the story made into the global media, also for the lack of community spirit in the UK. After police investigation, the cause of Joyce's death around December 2003 was left "unascertained," and the mystery of her death and past life remained unknown. Joyce Vincent's death around December 2003 and her body recovery in Jan 2006 made some people mistake it happened after 3 years (2003-06). Initially, some newspapers too reported the same 3 years, perhaps before police investigation estimated the death date.
The mysterious death of Joyce Vincent certainly disturbed many people, but there were also the allegations about her character and jokes that she could have drugged herself and lost her way. Disturbed at this, filmmaker Carol Morley searched for answers as to how could someone's absence go unnoticed for so long in a city like London, and why did no one miss her and check for her. In an attempt to solve the mystery of Joyce Carol Vincent's death and know her life before death, Carol Morley brought Joyce back to life in her film-documentary titled 'Dreams of a Life'. The video shows a trailer of the movie.
About her Childhood
Joyce Carol Vincent was born in Hammersmith (west London) on 15 October 1965, her father Lawrence was a carpenter of African descent and her mother Lyris was of Indian descent. They had immigrated to London from Grenada. When Joyce was eleven, her mother died following an operation, and she was raised by her four elder sisters. She did not have a healthy relationship with her emotionally distant father, who she claimed had died in 2001 (it was 2004 in actuality).
Career and Personal Life
The friends, colleagues and others who knew Joyce Vincent said she was a hard working woman who earned excellent money. At one stage, Joyce worked in the treasury department of Ernst & Young, a reputed accountancy firm in the world. During this period, Joyce Vincent was engaged for two years to someone who wished to remain anonymous. However, she quit the job in 2001 for unknown reasons. She told some she was travelling with 20 people, and others that she had been headhunted.
At the age of 26, Joyce Carol Vincent was an ambitious, fanciful and beautiful woman full of hope for the future. Her friends said she never drank much, never took drugs, and that she was also a good singer. During her life Joyce met famous figures like Nelson Mandela, Ben E. King, Gil Scott-Heron, and Betty Wright, and had also been to dinner with Stevie Wonder. They mentioned that she changed places often - at least once a year. The people who knew her close said Joyce maintained a happy go lucky charm and used to hide her inner feelings.
The skeletal dead body of Joyce Vincent was found in her Bedsit, a kind of rented accommodation consisting of single room per occupant. Joyce's bedsit was located at the end of the walkway, with only one neighboring flat, and no flat above or below, like it's architecturally cut off. The accommodation was usually occupied by drug addicts who might have thought the odor of decomposing body tissue of Joyce was from nearby waste bins. Half of Joyce's rent was being automatically paid by benefits agencies, so officials believed she was still alive. The TV and heating were still running because of automatic debit payments and debt forgiveness.
Although the cause of death was not ascertained, the possible cause was attributed to Joyce Vincent suffering from Asthma and a recent peptic ulcer. According to the pathologist who examined the "mostly skeletal" remains of Joyce Vincent, she was lying on her back, next to a shopping bag, and was surrounded by Christmas presents she had wrapped but never delivered. Police ruled her death as natural, as there was no suggestion of foul play.
Shortly after resigning her job at Ernst & Young in March 2001, Vincent spent some time in a domestic abuse shelter in Haringey. At the time of her death she had a fiancé, who police could not trace. To find Joyce, her sisters hired a private detective who found the house where Vincent was living. The family wrote letters to her, but since she was already dead, they did not get any response, so the family assumed that she had deliberately broken ties with them.
Describing her case as a life lived alone in a city of millions, HeraldScotland.com reported, "her friends noted her as someone who fled at signs of trouble, who walked out of jobs if she clashed with a colleague and who moved from one flat to the next all over London. She didn't answer the phone to her sister and didn't appear to have her own circle of friends but instead relied on the company of relative strangers who came with the package of a new boyfriend, a colleague or flat mate."
Talking about her death, Catherine Clarke, who was Joyce's good friend while renting a room, said she was not surprised that Joyce ended up in a refuge for victims of domestic violence. "Guys would come on so heavy and not let go. I can only think she became isolated from her family because of a guy that she chose. Maybe she was ashamed of the situation she got herself into. To go into a women's refuge, for Joyce, would have been a big thing."
John Ioannou, a common friend of Joyce Vincent who once shared a house with her for a while said they were a gang of friends who had great fun in 80s. He shook his head, sighed and ended saying, "She died of neglect. We all loved her, but not enough to stop her dying."
Something to Learn
From her childhood, career and personal life, it is clear that Joyce Carol Vincent, with her aspirations and desires, had an immaculate way of presenting herself, which masked the deeper troubles she had. It is heartbreaking that she died alone and lay undiscovered in front of a flickering TV screen for more than two years. It is more saddening she could not manage to seek the help of her friends or family. Her story teaches us the better ways to look at our lives, our opportunities and relationships, and that we are only a couple of bad decisions away from being alone.