For years, Laura Winham lay dead in her apartment because no one took care of her.
This case occupies the whole of England: Laura Winham († 38) suffered from schizophrenia and was in need of protection. But the woman seems to have been completely irrelevant to the authorities in the city of Woking in Great Britain. She lay dead in a council flat for almost four years until it was finally noticed that she had died.
Her desperate family is now demanding answers. “No one looked after her,” the family’s attorney said on Friday. Starting next week, an investigation should clarify why the mentally ill woman was simply forgotten by the social workers.
It is thanks to her worried brother and mother that she was found at all. They asked police to open Winham’s apartment in May 2021.
Laura Winham was afraid of her family
The officers saw a horrific sight. Her body already resembled a skeleton. Analysis of her teeth shows that she must have died in November 2017. The exact cause of death remains unclear to this day.
The family members are heartbroken as they had to stay away from their beloved Laura because her illness caused her to believe that her relatives wanted to harm her.
“We always hoped that with professional help she would be better and that one day we would be in touch again,” her sister Nicky told the Daily Mail. “We never thought that one day we would find her dead on the floor after lying there for so long without anyone knowing.”
Lost contact with family
Laura Winham was born with Goldenhar Syndrome, which causes curvature of the spine. She underwent heart surgery at the age of 18 and has suffered from mental health problems since her teens, requiring two psychiatric admissions.
She found it increasingly difficult to maintain a good relationship with her family. “The contact with us seemed to weigh on her enormously. She refused to see us and unfortunately in the end we had to respect her wish and leave her to the professionals,” said Nicky Winham.
In 2014, she was referred for psychiatric treatment after her property manager’s staff found that she was “unwell, quite thin and said she had no friends and believed she was being watched”.
Two years later, her Disability Living Allowance was stopped after she failed to respond to letters from the Department for Works and Pensions. So it was known that she was not feeling well. In October 2017 Surrey Police officers reported to Social Services that she was neglected and had little to eat.
Did the authorities fail?
The social workers then tried to reach Winham by phone – without success. They sent the 38-year-old a few letters. No one bothered to stop by Winham’s apartment. When there was no response after two weeks, her case was closed in the system with no contact ever made again in what appeared to be a fatal error for Winham.
It is believed that she died a few weeks later. At this point, the entries in her calendar stopped – shortly after she wrote “I need help”.
“There were so many warning signs”
Her housing association received no response to repeated calls, texts, and even home visits between November 2018 and January 2021 – and did nothing either. Her rent continued to be paid through housing benefit. The gas supply to her home was shut off in January 2019.
“There were so many red flags, from social services and psychiatric teams to landlords, but everyone turned a blind eye,” said the deceased’s sister.
Surrey County Council said: “This is a truly tragic case and our heartfelt condolences go out to Laura’s family and friends. It is important that every aspect of this complex case be investigated and we are committed to our full participation in the investigation.” (nad)