Dread: The Unsolved wants to ask you: If you were to die, right now, who would know? We all assume that our passing will be mourned. We assume that well-wishers and family will fill a church with their sadness, and a grand eulogy read for someone who went too soon.
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What if none of that happened? What if you died, and no one knew? What if your body just sat, and people assumed you hadn’t contacted them because you were out living your best life? In this age of internet and impersonal contact, it could be very likely. In fact, it’s already happened.
I’m Jans Holstrom, and this, is Dread: The Unsolved.
January 25th, 2006: The tenant in the apartment above the Wood Green Shopping City located in Wood Green, London; hadn’t been paying their rent. After almost 2 years, the outstanding debt was topping out at 2,400 British pounds. The owners of the apartment block, the metropolitan housing society, had decided enough was enough.
Management forced open the door to the apartment and was greeted with a grisly sight: A mostly skeletal corpse, sitting in front of a still playing TV, surrounded by neatly wrapped Christmas presents. This was Joyce Vincent, and at that point, she’d been dead almost 3 years.
How does someone living in a noisy, busy council apartment go without even a check-in for 3 years? How does no one notice? The smell of her body decomposing was rationalized away by tenants as the smell of nearby garbage cans. The apartments, as mentioned before, were noisy, so no one paid any attention to a TV that had been playing loudly the whole time.
Joyce Vincent was the last person you would expect to go unnoticed. She was a friend to many in the music industry and had even met Nelson Mandela at Wembley stadium, backstage for the International Tribute for a Free South Africa concert. By all accounts, she had a wide social circle. What changed?
In 2001, Vincent left her job of 4 years. Shortly after that, she spent time in a domestic abuse shelter in Haringey, London. At that time she was working as janitorial staff in a hotel.
February 2003: Vincent was moved to the apartment where she would die. London’s social safety net paid half her rent, leading the property owners to believe she was still alive. When questioned further about how Vincent could go unnoticed for so long, the Metropolitan Housing Trust pointed out that in the almost 3 years since her death, no one inquired about Vincent. Neither her neighbors nor any family.
You might assume that given the state of her end, that Vincent had no family. Vincent actually had 4 sisters, who had essentially raised her after her mother’s death. They had actually hired a private investigator to try and find her. The P.I. found her home, and her sisters began sending letters. After receiving no response, they assumed that Vincent no longer wanted them in her life.
Vincent was allegedly dating at the time, but to this day, no one can find her boyfriend.
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The Glasgow Herald reported this on her story:
“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, instead relying on the company of relative strangers who came with the package of a new boyfriend, a colleague, or flatmate.”
Even though people repeatedly stated they assumed she had cut off contact, there was still the matter of the gifts wrapped in her apartment. For someone who was portrayed as unreachable, why would she be wrapping gifts? It has never emerged who the gifts were addressed to.
The mystery I’m posing to you, reader, isn’t whether or not Joyce Vincent was the victim of foul play. The question is really: how can someone die and go completely unnoticed? How does a sister, a friend, a colleague just step out of everyone’s life? She wasn’t discovered by a worried family member or distraught partner. The only reason Joyce Vincent was found, was because she owed someone money. Think about that. I’ll be available to discuss it with you in the comments, on Twitter and Instagram @TheUnsolved, and on Facebook at Dread The Unsolved.