Woman whose 'mummified body' lay undiscovered in flat for three years 'left to die'

Laura Winham, who had schizophrenia, was let down by authorities, her family say. Credit: PA Media

The family of a vulnerable woman who lay dead in her flat for over three and a half years have said she was “abandoned and left to die” by social and mental health services.

Laura Winham, who had schizophrenia, was found in a “mummified and skeletal state” by her brother in her flat in Woking, Surrey, in May 2021.

Following analysis of her dental records it had become apparent the 38-year-old had died in November 2017, the family’s solicitors said.

Police have said they are satisfied there was no third-party involvement in her death.

Ms Winham’s sister, Nicky, said social care and mental health teams had “turned a blind eye” and everybody with a duty of care had “wiped their hands of her and forgot her”.

Nicky said the family were unable to maintain contact with her after years of schizophrenia caused her to believe they would harm her.

Nicky said: “Laura has been so badly let down.

“It’s just heartbreaking to think of how she lived in her last few years, unable to ask for help, without anyone there for her, it’s just tragic.

Laura Winham, 38, was found in a "mummified and skeletal state" by her brother in May 2021. Credit: PA

“We felt reassured that she had been given her own home, she was entitled to benefits, she had her own car and some part-time work, a few friends and we believed she would be supported by her mental health team and others moving forward.

“But that hasn’t happened and quite clearly there has been a huge break-down in Surrey County Council’s system and services when caring for a vulnerable person with both physical and mental health disabilities.”

She continued: “There were so many warning signs, from the social care and mental health teams to her landlords, yet everyone seems to have turned a blind eye.

“For three years and seven months nobody from the council checked the internal state and condition of her flat and at no point during this time were annual gas checks carried out.

“Everybody who was in contact with Laura, and had a duty to her at some stage, simply wiped their hands of her and forgot her. She was abandoned and left to die.

Laura Winham lay dead in her flat for three and a half years. Credit: PA

“The fact that she was dead for so long suggests failures all round to meet her basic human needs.”

Nicky said: “We always hoped she would get better with professional help and that one day our contact would resume. We never believed for one second we would end up finding her dead on her floor having laid there for so long without anyone knowing.

“Sadly, none of the investigations nor the inquest will bring Laura back, but it may prevent it happening again, and stop further avoidable deaths like this happening.

“No one should have to suffer the way Laura did due to the lack of support given to her mental health.

“We now must live with the devastating sadness of what has happened, and we are sharing our story because we do not want any other families to suffer in this way.”

Ahead of a pre-inquest review at Surrey Coroner’s Court on Monday, solicitor Iftikhar Manzoor, acting for the family, said there were “so many red flags missed”.

Surrey Police confirmed they were called to the address on May 24 2021, following a concern for safety report and found a body inside the property.

In a statement, a force spokeswoman said: “Police attended an address in Woking following a concern for safety report on 24 May 2021. Sadly, the body of a woman in her 30s was found inside the property.

“An investigation was completed and officers were satisfied that there was no third-party involvement. A file was passed to the coroner.

“Officers previously attended the address in October 2017, no offences were identified and a report was completed and shared with adult social care at that time”

Statements from both Surrey County Council and Woking Borough Council offered their “heartfelt” and “deepest” condolences to Ms Winham’s family, and said they would continue to support the coroner with their inquiries and the inquest process.

Surrey NHS mental health services have been contacted for comment.

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