Woman lay dead for weeks in Southwark flat where she lived in ‘swamp’ conditions

Northfleet House in Newcomen Street, Southwark  (Google Maps)
Northfleet House in Newcomen Street, Southwark (Google Maps)

A woman has been found dead at a councilflat in south London where she reportedly lived in “swamp” conditions amid ongoing leaks at the property.

It has since emerged the woman and her downstairs neighbours had allegedly complained to the council about the leaks for around 10 months prior to her death.

The woman is believed to have lain dead for weeks or months before she was finally discovered on January 6, when an emergency housing officer forced entry to a flat in Northfleet House on the Tabard Garden Estate in Southwark.

Jeffrey Boachie-Frimpong, 35, who lives below the flat with his family said they first raised the alarm about the woman’s welfare on March 6, 2022, when they knocked on her door due to water leaking through their ceiling from her property.

He told Southwark News: “I was greeted by a lady who was extremely distraught and explained her leak had been ongoing for many months previously.

“She was living in what seemed to be a dirty swamp.”

 (Google Maps)
(Google Maps)

A photo taken by Mr Boachie-Frimpong showed a deep layer of water covering the woman’s kitchen floor.

She reportedly told him she had informed the council but the leak had not been repaired.

Mr Boachie-Frimpong’s wife, who did not wish to be named, said they immediately called the council.

“We explained how bad it was and that this needs to be dealt with as soon as possible, not to mention that this poor woman should be rehoused,” she told Southwark News.

“We continued complaining for the course of eleven months. Each time we were told, ‘if you can’t get through to her, how will we?’ and that ‘we need a court order, you can’t just force entry’.”

When the leak restarted last Friday, January 6, leaving water pouring through the family’s light fixtures and causing a fuse, they again urged the council to take action.

An emergency housing officer forced entry into the woman’s flat and tragically found the woman lying dead in the bathroom.

She had not been seen for some time, and a pile of mail was reportedly heaped behind the door, prompting concerns she may have been dead for some time.

The leak is understood to have been fixed on Tuesday (January 10), four days after the woman was found dead.

The woman has not yet been formally identified, but Scotland Yard saaid her death was investigated and was found to be non-suspicious.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.

A Southwark Council spokesperson said: “This is a very sad story and we are looking into all interactions regarding this property and the contact from neighbours.”

The authority said it had been actively trying to contact the tenant of the property at the time the woman was found dead, adding that councils are not allowed to break into people’s homes without permission unless it is an emergency.

Council repairs teams had been to the property, and neighbouring ones, to fix intermittent leaks in the past months, and the last contact the authority had with the tenant was in July.

Councillor Darren Merrill, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for council homes and homelessness, said: “I am incredibly saddened that a woman has been found dead in one of our council properties, and extend my heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.

“We are supporting the police in establishing the exact circumstances, and thoroughly checking all records the council holds in relation to this property and the tenant.

“I know this is an extremely upsetting situation for people living in the block, and I want to reassure them that we will offer as much support as we can.”