On January 25, 2006, the body of a British woman was discovered in an apartment above Wood Green Shopping City: It was determined that the body, consisting primarily of skeletal remains, was that of Joyce Carol Vincent. It was determined that she had died in December 2003, which means her body lay undiscovered for nearly three years. How could a beautiful, vivacious woman who was full of life and reaching for her dreams virtually disappear without even one person noticing? To solve this case, numerous questions need to be answered: What caused her death? Why didn’t anyone miss her during her three-year absence?
The Metropolitan Housing Trust
A United Kingdom housing association, the Metropolitan Housing Trust (aka Metropolitan), owned the apartment in which Joyce’s remains were discovered. Metropolitan provides shelter for a variety of populations, including those who are victims of abuse. Joyce had become a victim of domestic violence and, in February 2003, she began to receive housing benefits, which gave her the means to reside in the Metropolitan housing unit.
January 25, 2006 – A Grim Discovery
According to the housing association, benefits continued to cover half of the cost of Joyce’s rent for some time following her death. Initially, the association accepted these partial payments: However, after several attempts were made to collect the remaining balance, a repossession notice was issued to reclaim her apartment. It is at this point in time that Joyce’s remains are found.
Due to the lack of viable tissue, the cause of death could not be determined: However, Joyce did have asthma and a peptic ulcer. In fact, she had been hospitalized for two days in November 2003 after she began vomiting blood. Either one of these conditions could have led to her demise. There was no evidence of foul play, therefore, the police ruled that Joyce died due to natural causes.
A Heartbreaking Scene
The pathologist assigned to Joyce Vincent’s case stated that when she was found, she was lying on her back with a shopping bag next to her. Joyce was also surrounded by Christmas gifts that she, herself, had wrapped, but never got the chance to deliver. No one knows who the recipient(s) of these presents were and, since the police report has been disposed of, no one ever will.
The food in the refrigerator had expiration dates from three years prior. The kitchen sink was full of dirty dishes, a huge pile of mail lay just behind the front door. The heat and the television had been on continuously for three years; however, the neighbors did not find the never-ending programs playing on channel BBC1 a cause for concern. This continuous noise wasn’t considered odd because drug addicts were known to frequent the area. In addition, neighbors believed that the odor being emitted from Joyce’s decomposing body was coming from nearby waste bins.
At the time of her death, Joyce did have a boyfriend, but efforts to find him were unsuccessful. Her sisters were desperate to find her. They hired a private investigator in hopes of finding her. The investigator did find the house where Joyce was living. Her family began writing letters to her. After her sisters did not receive a response, they assumed that Joyce was not interested in mending their broken ties. However, their letters arrived too late as Joyce had already passed.
The Life of Joyce Carol Vincent – Revisited
In an attempt to understand how such a tragedy could befall Joyce Carol Vincent, key aspects of her life must be revisited.
Joyce was born in Hammersmith, England, on October 19, 1965. Her father’s name was Lawrence and he worked as a carpenter. Lawrence was an emotionally distant man of African descent and Joyce’s mother, Lyris, was of Indian descent. Unfortunately, in 1976, she lost her mother due to complications that arose following a surgical procedure: At the time of her mother’s death, Joyce was only 11 years old. As the relationship between Lawrence and his 11-year-old daughter was strained, Joyce’s four older sisters took responsibility for raising her. Once she turned 16, Joyce decided to quit school, leaving with no qualifications, whatsoever.
Unraveling Joyce Carol Vincent’s Adult Life
Film-maker Carol Morley wanted to know more about the woman no one missed. To accomplish this, she began taking out advertisements to track down people who knew Joyce personally.
Kirk Thorne – Friend, Musician and Former Landlord
Kirk had difficulty understanding how Joyce ended up alone, living in an apartment for victims of abuse. Kirk said she was not the kind of girl that would continually sit in front of the television. Joyce had a good social life and plenty of friends. According to Kirk, Joyce was intelligent, good-looking, successful and searching for the type of man every woman wants: However, for these reasons, most women felt threatened by her.
Kirk had fulfilled Joyce’s dream of becoming a recording artist by making a recording of her in his studio. This was also the place where Joyce dressed as a maid and served the punk legend Captain Sensible tea. Kirk wondered if she would have been happier pursuing a singing career, as opposed to working with all the City bankers. He believes that Joyce was in search of something that she would never find.
Catherine Clark – A Friend
Catherine rented a room from Kirk: It is during this time that she and Joyce became good friends. According to Catherine, most of Joyce’s friends were male. Catherine was amazed at how intense men interested in dating Joyce would become.
Catherine states that Joyce ending up at a place for victims of abuse does not surprise her because men would come on heavy and then have difficulty letting go. Catherine declares that going into a women’s refuge would be shameful for Joyce, which may be the reason she stayed away.
American Disco Singer – Judy Cheeks – A Friend
The last time Judy Cheeks recalls speaking with Joyce was in the late 90s. At that time, Joyce had yet to find “Mr. Right.” Judy states that she did not know where Joyce was heading, no one did. However, Judy thought of her often and assumed that she finally found Mr. Right, had several kids and was happy.
Martin Lister – Boyfriend for Three Years
After coming across an advertisement requesting information about Joyce Vincent, Martin Lister contacted film-maker Carol Morley to inquire as to whether the woman found in the apartment was the Joyce Vincent that he knew from years before. When it was determined that the woman was indeed ‘his’ Joyce Vincent, Carol requested a meeting with him. He agreed and the two met outside of the Shepherd’s Bush underground station. As Carol thanked him for meeting with her, Martin thanked Carol as well. Martin told Carol that he considered this meeting to be a form of therapy.
According to Martin, Joyce did not drink very much and never participated in recreational drug use; however, the issue that surprised him the most was the fact that she had been living in social housing.
At the age of 20, Joyce worked as a secretary at OCL, which is where she met Martin. He was responsible for negotiating client renewals for the company. Martin recalls that Joyce continually asked him to go out for a drink: He states that it never occurred to him that she was actually asking him out, as such, he pitied the fact that she didn’t have any friends. Eventually, Martin accepted Joyce’s invitation to have a drink; subsequently, the two dated for approximately three years.
Martin remembered that people frequently said Joyce resembled Whitney Houston. While they were dating, Joyce and Martin always had fun, whether it was tennis at Wimbledon, going to the opera, racing at Goodwood, listening to classical music or dining out, they had a good time.
Martin recalls that Joyce was constantly working towards improving her mind. She had taken elocution lessons, which gave her the skills necessary to sound very well-spoken, not posh, but resembling someone from the BBC.
Martin never met any of her family members, which he did find somewhat odd. However, even after they separated, the two continued to talk on and off: That is, until 2002. Upon reflection, Martin states that he wishes he would have asked Joyce more questions about her life.
Martin stated that Joyce had worked up to earning an excellent wage, which is why he could not understand how she ended up in social housing.
As his voice became tinged with sadness, Martin said that Joyce had wanted to get married, but he wasn’t ready to settle down.
Joyce spent four years working in the treasury department of Ernst & Young. For reasons unknown, she resigned from her position in March 2001. Shortly thereafter, she spent time in Haringey, which is a domestic abuse shelter.
Joyce also worked as a housekeeper at an economically-priced hotel: It is during this time that she became disconnected from her family and friends. According to an individual who was involved in the investigation, there was no turmoil in the family that caused the estrangement. There have been speculations that she was trying to hide from her abuser and/or was just ashamed of being a victim of domestic abuse.
The Illusion of Joyce’s Life
Some of those who knew Joyce noticed that she didn’t seem to have her own identity or interests. She appeared to stumble through life in a Forrest Gump fashion, landing on amazing opportunities, but lacking the solid ambition necessary to succeed. Joyce absorbed the social set and lifestyle of whomever she was with. For example, the guests attending her 21st birthday party were all invited by Martin, with no trace of her family or friends.
In the late 80s, Joyce dated producer Alistair Abrahams. This allowed her to rub elbows with the likes of Betty Wright, Gil Scott-Heron, Isaac Hayes and Ben E. King. She also met Nelson Mandela. However, this was not her first time engaging with celebrities, Judy Cheeks had taken Joyce with her to have dinner with the legendary Stevie Wonder.
Joyce lived a peripatetic existence, frequently moving from one place to the next, staying with friends and changing jobs at random. Typically, a job change meant that she was receiving unwanted attention from a male co-worker and she was feeling overwhelmed. Since she isolated herself from those who may care for her, Alistair believes that Joyce chose to die alone. One of the most telling observations is that she put her bank manager on her pre-surgical form as her next of kin. This, despite the fact that she had recently been in touch with Alistair and stayed with Martin the year before.
More Recognition in Death Than She Ever Received in Life
Joyce has received more recognition in death than she ever received in life: Carol Morley has created a drama-documentary film based on the life and death of Joyce Vincent: The film, “Dreams of a Life,” was released in 2011. After watching the film about Joyce’s life, musician Steven Wilson felt inspired: This inspiration led to the creation of the album: “Hand. Cannot. Erase.”
Music writer Anthony Petropoulos wrote and published a book in August 2017 that is based on the life and death of Joyce Vincent. The book is written in Greek: The title of the book is, “Alone in the crowd – The life and the tragic death of Joyce Carol Vincent.”
Whether Joyce had a fear of attachment due to the loss of her mother, or her self-esteem had been destroyed by the person who chose to abuse her, all we can do is speculate as to why she decided to cut herself off from everyone who cared for her.
Death is painful and difficult: I recall when my Grandmother passed away, I was 24 years old and my heart was ripped from my chest. I considered protecting myself by keeping my distance from others. However, as time went by, I realized that without love, what type of life are you living? It has been 23 years since my Grandmother’s death and I still think of her every single day. At least now I can smile at many of the memories, but the pain is always there: Even as I write this, tears swell up in my eyes. I cannot even imagine the pain that Joyce felt following the death of her mother as a young girl of just 11 years old.