Neighbours began complaining to the housing association landlord about a ‘foul smell’ in the building in October 2019, but it wasn’t until this week that officers forced their way into the flat to find the occupant had died.
They became increasingly concerned when letters began to pile up in the letterbox of the woman, who locals say owed thousands of pounds in rent, and when they spotted a forced entry notice for a gas check on the door of the flat in 2020.
One neighbour, who lived next door to the victim, said she had been forced to put a towel under the door to stifle the smell coming from the flat within the three-story complex.
‘It’s disgusting and I’m shocked,’ she said. ‘I didn’t know her very well, but she would sometimes collect my deliveries for me.
‘I came back from a trip abroad in September or October 2019 when I noticed a horrific stench in the building. It was so bad, I had to put a towel under the door.
‘We repeatedly called the housing association because it was weird – her letter box was full and I could see from the letters she hadn’t been paying rent. I called them up again and said I hadn’t seen this lady in months.
‘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 abandoned in front of her door and neighbours complained that it had not been removed.
Police finally broke the door down this week to find the deceased woman.
‘They broke down the door and it revealed what I had feared the whole time – that she was dead,’ the neighbour added.
‘They told me she was basically a skeleton and asked me to confirm her ethnicity.’
A spokesperson for the force said: ‘At 19:01hrs on Friday, 18 February police were called to a flat in St Mary’s Road, Peckham.
‘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.’