Sheila Seleoane lived much of her adult life with seemingly little connection to the country of her parents’ birth, but in recent weeks her tragic tale has gripped the attention of many South Africans.
Questions abound about how the 61-year-old former healthcare worker could lie dead in her London flat for more than two years before her remains were discovered in February.
Seleoane was buried in the Eastern Cape last month by distant relatives who had never seen or heard about her, the media reported.
She was born in Britain to her mother, Adelina, who emigrated to London from the Eastern Cape in 1954 to work as a doctor’s housekeeper.
An inquest will be held at Southwark Coroner’s Court in London on Thursday to determine how and when Seleoane had died. An independent report into the discovery of her remains and why it had taken roughly 30 months to find her was also expected to be released soon.
Seleoane’s decomposed remains were found by police in her fourth-floor flat in Peckham, south London, after neighbours repeatedly complained about a powerful stench emanating from her flat.
According to the publication, she was a medical secretary by profession who lived alone in the flat. She had a brother, Victor, who also lives in Britain, but it was understood that they had been estranged for many years.
Victor and a representative of the Peabody Trust – a housing association operating the block of flats where Seleoane lived – were the only people who attended her funeral at Croydon Crematorium in London on 19 April. Peabody later arranged for her remains to be sent to South Africa for a burial, which was attended by 100 mourners.
Bella Brooms, one of her two surviving siblings, attended the funeral.
It was still a mystery how Seleoane’s lonely death had gone unnoticed for more than two years despite neighbours repeatedly calling both the police and the Peabody office about the foul smell coming from her apartment.
A neighbour who lived in the flat below her home had reported hearing footsteps in Seleoane’s flat a year after she was last seen or heard of, while other residents claimed people had entered her flat in the past two years.
Police officers who entered Seleoane’s flat to investigate the foul smell which neighbours had complained about found her remains propped up on a sofa and reportedly flanked by deflated party balloons.
The authorities have ruled out foul play and are treating the incident as a natural death.