News Walthamstow

Walthamstow council flat still not cleaned weeks after woman found dead

Sharon’s neighbours said the smell from the flat is so strong someone threw up in the corridor, reports Victoria Munro

Sharon’s door was kicked in by police at the start of April

More than six weeks since a vulnerable woman was found dead under hoarded rubbish in a Walthamstow council flat, her neighbours are still being forced to live with the smell of death.

Sharon, reportedly in her late 50s, was found dead in her elderly mother’s council flat just off Blackhorse Road on 2nd April, the morning after police kicked in her door to check on her welfare.

Since then neighbours say her flat, so full of rubbish her body was impossible to find at first, has remained untouched, filling the entire two-storey block with a foul stench, flies and rodents.

The block’s remaining residents told the Echo the smell is so bad that someone threw up in the corridor outside the flat, while some neighbours have temporarily moved out.

Residents have repeatedly pleaded with Waltham Forest Council to do something but, in an email sent on 2nd May, a heavily pregnant tenant was told the flat could not be cleaned until the council had been given the keys by Sharon’s surviving family.

Pauline Di Silvestro, a private tenant in the block, told the Echo: “Sharon had a very bad hoarding problem so smell was already an issue but you can’t just get used to the smell of a dead body.

“Someone vomited in the corridor outside the flat and a neighbour ended up cleaning it a few days later. We are all very stressed out and being constantly dismissed and bounced around by the council, it’s so frustrating.”

Another 58-year-old resident, who asked not to be named, lives above Sharon’s old flat and says the smell comes up “through the drains, the doors, the windows and the pipes” and even “seeps underneath the bath”.

She said: “It’s the kind of smell that sticks, I can smell it on my clothes. Why are we being made to live like this? If they can’t go in and clean it up, they could at least seal the door off.

“The postman can’t even bear the stairs, he’s been leaving the post and packages just inside the door [to the block].”

Residents have put out incense in a bid to combat the smell

She added that she last saw Sharon the weekend before she was found dead and believes she was dead for maybe two days before she was found.

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She said: “Police broke her door down at 11pm on Saturday but they couldn’t find her until Sunday because she was underneath all her stuff. Unfortunately, she was an acute hoarder who hoarded rubbish – she would go through the bins and take out things she thought were useful – so that’s a big part of the smell.

“I think what the council has been doing [after her death] is appalling but my main outrage is that she was failed by the system and the care services. This must be a condition she had for at least ten years.”

Neighbour Ruth Doyle, who is more than nine months pregnant, said she fears that the state of the flat is a “massive health and safety risk” to the rest of the block.

She said: “I keep asking if the council will reimburse people’s service charges during this period and that point has never been addressed.”

Ruth made a formal complaint to the council and received a response on 2nd May, explaining that it is “working closely with the family” to gain access to the flat so it can be cleaned.

The response, seen by the Echo, reads: “Once we are in possession of the property, we can carry out full cleaning and repairs and anything else that needs to be done to bring it back to a reasonable standard.

“[The family has] agreed to give access to our pest control and environmental services once the police return the keys to them, which we anticipate will be imminent. I am sorry that there has been such a delay in getting this resolved and I do appreciate your concerns.”

Tenants who spoke to the Echo said they understand the Met Police were originally investigating whether Sharon’s death could have been a suicide.

Following the original publication of this article, the council’s cabinet member for housing Ahsan Khan told the Echo: “We were very saddened to hear that a person passed away in a council-owned property. I’d like to offer my sincerest condolences to their friends and family.

“We understand this can be a difficult and unsettling time for those living nearby and will always treat these situations with the appropriate sensitivity.

“Once we were notified of the welfare concerns of the occupant, we took prompt action. The police attended and sadly confirmed the resident had died. They have been carrying out their investigation which has just concluded, and we have now received the keys to the property back.

“We have worked closely with the tenant and their family and have instructed our contractors to thoroughly clean the flat as soon as possible.”

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