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The tragic loneliness of Sheila Seleoane: Woman, 61, lay dead in her flat for TWO YEARS

Pathologists are trying to determine how she passed away after going missing in 2019, but they believe she died alone in her flat
UPDATED JUL 16, 2022
The only available of Sheila Seleoane is from her passport which was given to Daily Mail by her long-lost family in South Africa (Credit: Daily Mail)
The only available of Sheila Seleoane is from her passport which was given to Daily Mail by her long-lost family in South Africa (Credit: Daily Mail)

A 61-year-old woman's skeletal remains were found on her living room sofa — she had died more than two years ago. The Medical secretary Sheila Seleoane was found on Friday, July 15, in her house in Peckham, South London. The police broke down her door after being notified that her balcony door was still swinging open after Storm Eunice. Seleoane's body lay next to deflated pink party balloons, said her neighbor Ms Bent, who lived in the same corridor on the fourth floor of the block in Lord's Court, Peckham.

According to the Daily Mail report, the smell of rotting flesh was reported by neighbors soon after her death. Maggots reportedly plagued neighboring apartments, and neighbors also heard flies buzzing in her apartment and saw them coming out from under her door. However, they claimed that the scent, the infestation of flies and maggots were all explained away as a "drain issue" and the matter was never properly addressed. According to the neighbors, no one would come to check while the building was on lockdown.


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The housing association was notified at least 50 times, according to neighbor Ayesha Smith, but nothing was done. According to a 33-year-old woman Korrina White, her kid spotted flies coming from behind Ms. Seleoane's door when he was playing in the hallway. Another neighbor said, "It’s disgusting. I came back from a trip abroad in October 2019 when I noticed a horrific stench in the building. It was so bad, I had to put a towel under the door."

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.

The Met Police said: "Concerns had been raised about the welfare of a woman who lived at the address. Officers attended and forced entry. The body of a 61-year-old woman who was deceased was found inside. The woman's death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious. A file will be prepared for the coroner." Pathologists are trying to determine how she passed away after going missing in 2019, but they believe she died alone in her flat. The cause and timing of Miss Seleoane's death will be determined during an inquest on Thursday. The cause of her death may be ruled uncertain given that her corpse had decayed, according to renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Richard Shepherd.

Seleoane had never met her sister, Julia Bella Brooms, but Julia was notified about her passing. Julia lived in South Africa and wondered why no one had inquired about her sister. Speaking to the Daily Mail she said: “Where were Sheila's neighbors? Where were her work colleagues? People from the local municipality? Her landlord? This could never happen in South Africa. Here, when your neighbor isn't seen, even for one or two days, you go to check up on them. We live as a community." Sheila's estranged older brother Victor Seleoane, 64, who is the only member of her family she is aware of in this nation, has proven to be similarly elusive. His desire to stay anonymous may be explained by his murder conviction 41 years ago.

A young woman who lived opposite Miss Seleoane said, "She was always well put-together, and wore a smart black coat, black trousers, and black court shoes, with her hair tied in a bun. But I didn't really speak to her. It was more just, 'Hi' and 'Bye'."
Ms. Bent, a mother of three who lives down the same hallway, said that because of her tiny build and weekend gym attire, Sheila looked younger than her 61 years of age. Hence, everyone imagined she had a full social and professional life.

After a year, Peabody Housing Association requested a welfare check from the Metropolitan Police, and according to the trust's records, the police responded that they had talked to the resident and that she is safe and healthy. Peabody claims that nothing was recorded in their records until the following June, despite claims that concerns were raised as early as the winter of 2019. The trust then asserts that despite making several attempts to get in touch with her, it lacked the legal authority to access the property.

Following the report, Peabody closed the case on October 22, 2020. Speaking to the Daily Mail the trust's chief executive, Ian McDermott said: 'We are all devastated by what has happened. Quite rightly, everyone wants answers, and so do we. Clearly, looking back, the red flags were there. It should have been obvious to us that Sheila had either abandoned the property or something was very wrong. Even with the challenges of lockdowns, we should have done better.” According to Evelyn Odintru, a neighbor, her children, ages 12, 11, and 3, suffer nightmares because they are so terrified of being so near to a dead body. The whole fourth level has requested to be transferred to another building.

Who was Sheila Seleoane?

61-year-old Sheila Seleoane (Daily Mail)
The 61-year-old Sheila Seleoane's only known photograph (Daily Mail)

According to an investigation by David Jones for the Daily Mail, we now know that Sheila's mother, Adeline, came to Southampton from South Africa in 1954. She used to work as a nursemaid to support her family who had accompanied her. At the time, she already had a daughter, Bella, but there is no information about the baby's father. Three years later, Adeline gave birth to a son, Victor Seleoane. Then in Hornsey, North London, Adeline gave birth to Sheila on January 9, 1961. Their birth certificates do not include their father's name, and it appears Adeline was single at the time.

According to an old friend of Sheila, who attended Woodberry Down Comprehensive School in North London with her, she was shy at first but she developed a "bubbly" personality once she felt at ease around others. They liked going out together and stayed friends into their late teens, but lost contact after that. About 30 years ago, they last ran into each other while shopping. "We chatted for a while and she seemed fine," says Mrs. Hussey. "This is just so sad. Why was nobody there for her?"

Seleoane's decision to work as a medical secretary was perhaps influenced by her mother, who was also a hospital employee. Sheila was a temp with Lifeline Personnel in her fifties. But after February 20, 2015, the company claims to have no payroll records for her. It is almost beyond belief that her death went unnoticed for more than two years in this day and age when our every move is tracked by social media apps, CCTV, 'smart' phones, and other digital devices used in practically every household.


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Ironically, Sheila Seleoane's half-sister Bella Brooms, whom she has never met, seems to be the only one pressing for the truth about Sheila's death. Bella also wants Sheila to be buried in the family plot beside their mother and have her bones flown to South Africa. Finally, Flat 16 has been emptied of its macabre remains but will it ever have any future residents?