It’s a question that was dragged into my thoughts as I read recently about the sad story of Sheila Seleoane, the medical secretary who died in 2019 in her fourth floor flat in Peckham, but whose body was only discovered more than two years later.
Nobody had noticed she was missing.
It’s hard to know what’s most disturbing about this story.
Early reports homed in on the sordid and macabre nature of the discovery. The Metro newspaper ran this headline:
The Mail Online reported the ‘macabre claim’ that footsteps had been heard in the flat many months after the occupier had died, supposedly alone.
Other reports focused on attributing blame:
The negligence of the Peabody Trust housing association, who had continued to collect Mrs Seeoane’s rent for the whole period, but had not had any contact with her, despite repeated concerns raised by residents worried about the overpowering smell.
The incomprehensible incompetence of the local police. Prompted by another neighbour’s concerns, police were first persuaded to visit the flat in October 2020. According to this neighbour, officers then reported they had ‘made contact’ with the occupant and established she was ‘safe and well’. The report is confirmed by Peabody. This certainly raises some questions.
But surely the most disturbing angle to this whole sad tale is what it tells us about the world we are creating. Automated systems now allow the rent to be paid automatically, for our bills to be paid, for every element of our lives to continue seemingly as normal – even when we are no longer there.
Perhaps if I get clever with ChatGPT I’ll be able to set posts to this blog to automatically appear well into the future, so you won’t know if I’m here or not. Or if I’m still here now.