I want y ou to close your eyes and dive into the world of imagination for a moment. If you die today, who do you think would be the first person to notice that you are gone? If you lay on your bed right now and take your last breath, who would miss you? If you go missing for let’s say a few months, who would come looking for you? Joyce Vincent was someone who died and for almost three years, no one noticed that she was gone, not even her family!
She was a very beautiful lady. When you take a good look at her picture, you would see nothing but beauty. Her father was from Africa and her mother from India so you can imagine what beauty she was! While growing up, her family emigrated from one country in the West Indies to London.
When Joyce was eleven, something terrible happened to her. Her mother fell so sick and she had to undergo an operation. Sadly, she lost her mother in the process. Life wasn’t so fair to her and so she was raised by her four older sisters. She was the youngest of them. What about her father? Well, her relationship with her father wasn’t smooth. It was strained as her father seemed emotionally distant from her. He wasn’t always at home and so she didn’t have a father figure while growing up. Some sources said that he was busy chasing other women. So, her older sisters took up the responsibility of raising her.
When Joyce turned 16, she decided to drop out of school. Isn’t this strange? Well, she preferred working to schooling. So, she started searching for jobs she could do and she finally got one. Joyce wanted to be independent I guess and be free from the life she was living at home. At this point, her relationship with her sisters wasn’t so smooth. She always wanted to be on her own.
Joyce initially got a job as a secretary and then as a treasurer in one of London’s biggest company ‘Ernst & Young”. She worked for about 4 years there and then resigned in March 2001. At all of her jobs, she was this likeable young lady. She was well-spoken, polite and very attractive. People said she had a beautiful smile. There was something peculiar about Joyce. She never kept close friends. She only associated with probably the friends of her boyfriend but she didn’t have her circle of friends. She was this person that hated any form of disagreement or confrontation so much that whenever she had a clash with any of her co-workers, she would simply walk away from the job forever. She just wanted peace and so she withdrew herself from anything or anyone hindering her peace.
Joyce in one of her romantic relationship was a victim of domestic violence. So, she spent some time in a shelter for victims of domestic violence in a place and there she took a job as a cleaner in an hotel. That was in 2001. It was during that time Joyce decided to completely cut off ties with her family. She refused to pick their calls or even see them. Her family didn’t know where she was staying as she was always moving from one apartment to another. She was probably hiding because she was ashamed of the abuse she had been subjected to or she was probably hiding from her abuser at all cost.
In February 2003, Joyce moved into a one-bedroom apartment above a shopping mall. The apartment was owned by the Metropolitan Housing Trust and it was used specifically to house victims of abuse. Joyce’s family still tried looking for her and they went to the extent of hiring a personal detective to track her down. When they finally got the address of where she stayed, they sent letters to her but they didn’t receive any reply. Why was Joyce silent?
In 2004, the Metropolitan Housing Trust agency noticed that Joyce wasn’t contributing any money for her house rent. The agency was in charge of paying half of the rent while she paid the other but she wasn’t contributing any money. Why was Joyce silent? Her debt kept on increasing until the housing officials decided to evict her from the house in 2006. So, they decided to pay a visit.
When the officials got to the apartment, the door was locked tightly from the inside. So, they had to break the door. When they got into the house, they met an unexpected scene. Can you figure out what they saw? They saw a skeleton lying on it’s back in front of a television which was on and next to the skeleton was a shopping bag filled with Christmas presents. The odour oozing out of the room was so terrible. Whose skeleton was that and where was Joyce Vincent? The investigation began!
The corpse which they saw was badly decomposed and they couldn’t identify the owner. However, they were able to identify the corpse through its dental record. The dental record of the corpse corresponded to the portrait of Joyce in her apartment in which she was smiling with her white teeth clearly visible. The corpse was Joyce Vincent’s. Who killed her? Was she assassinated?
The option of her death been a murder was completely ruled out because her door was bolted tightly from the inside. If it was a murder case, the door should have been opened or bolted from the outside. It wasn’t also a suicide case. However, an autopsy couldn’t be conducted on her because her corpse had really decayed but it was postulated that Joyce had died a few days before Christmas in 2003. That’s almost 3 years before her corpse was finally discovered. Records have it that in November 2003, she was admitted into the hospital for some days as she was suffering from peptic ulcer and asthma. So, they concluded that it must have been the cause of her death. Well, nobody knows till date the exact cause of her death. But, it was believed it must have been a natural cause.
Joyce Vincent who was 38 years old at the time of her death had been lying down lifeless in her apartment for more than 2 more years without anyone realizing not even her neighbours. When her neighbours were questioned, they said they thought the apartment was unoccupied and the stench coming out from the apartment was due to the garbage dump that was close to the apartment.
The gifts Joyce Vincent had wrapped as Christmas presents had no labels on them. So who was she going to give? Nobody knew but she apparently had a boyfriend at that time but he was nowhere to be found. Well, people who knew Joyce Vincent described her as socially active and whenever she cut off ties with someone, they assumed she was living a better life without them. Joyce Vincent had a great talent for singing though and she had met some great personality in her life such as Nelson Mandela but the reason for her emotional isolation remains a mystery.
The question boils down to this. How can a person be long gone from the world without anybody noticing? Was that life? The truth is, there are so many of us that are just like Joyce Vincent. We are so emotionally distant from the people around us and we don’t let people into our lives. Some of us have the brightest smile but behind that smile is pain, loneliness and depression.
Many people actually suffer from loneliness today. A smile doesn’t mean that someone is happy. Let’s learn to check up on our loved ones. Don’t always wait until they make a move. Why don’t you make a move? Don’t just assume that someone is fine. Depression is real. To those who are a Joyce Vincent, come out from your shell today and make the very best out of your life for life is short. Don’t die and end up forgotten.
Writer: Isibor Precious
Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria