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'Alone in a busy world'

TRAGIC: Ella Henderson remembers the tragic story of Joyce Vincent

ONE OF the most poignant stories I ever read is that of 38-year-old Joyce Vincent, who died alone in a bedsit in Wood Green, north London, in 2006. 

This very beautiful girl had lain undiscovered for three years. The discovery of her skeleton lying on a sofa was made by local Housing Association officials arriving to repossess the flat due to non-payment of rent.

According to reports, unopened Christmas presents lay on the floor, a small mound of unwashed dishes sat in the kitchen sink, and a pile of cards and letters were behind the door. The television was on, flickering into the desolate room uninterrupted since 2003.

I vaguely remember reading about the lonely death at the time, and other than shaking my head at the tragic story and wondering how it could happen, I pretty much forgot about it.

That was until last week when I happened upon the full story of Joyce Vincent, as told by filmmaker Carole Morley in her film Dreams of a Life, due to be released in March 2012.

Morley was so moved after reading about the discovery she made it her mission to find out more and tell the story of the beautiful black girl who had laid dead and undiscovered for three years. 


Reading about how she pieced together the jigsaw that was Joyce Vincent’s life one can only reflect on one’s own fairly nomadic, often chaotic existence.

Accordingly to Morley’s research, Joyce had a vibrant personality, many friends, and was upwardly mobile.  She had held down a great job with accountancy firm Ernst and Young, dated, and by all accounts was incredibly popular with her peers.

The perception was that this girl about town was doing well, but the reality was that none of her friends and colleagues really knew her. I imagine her as a social butterfly who rarely, if ever, spoke about what was truly going on with her.

I know many independent women who live alone – some by choice and some by circumstance. Sometimes, usually when someone does or says something out of character, you wonder whether you know that person at all.  

Of course, we keep in touch by phone, but there are many occasions when you lose touch with people, assuming that although you have not spoken or met up for coffee in a while that they must be OK, or they are  simply busy or off on a new adventure. 

Joyce’s story is perhaps a cautionary tale of life in the 21st century, where folks greet each other with a quick “Hey, how are you?”, but really do not have the time or even the desire to truly know how that person is doing.

As Christmas approaches, it is a good time to reconnect with lost loved ones, family or friends you may have not spoken to in ages. You never know, their silence might be a cry for help.

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