Mystery over woman's death after skeletal remains found in Romford home

Hailsham Road, Romford

Care home assistant Janet Ashley's 'partly skeletalised' body was found inside her home in Hailsham Road, Romford - Credit: Google Streetview

A coroner has recorded an open verdict in the death of a Romford woman, saying her body was so decomposed it was impossible to determine her cause of death. 

Janet Mary Ashley, 55, was found “partly skeletalised” at her home in Hailsham Road on January 14. 

She may have laid undiscovered for months. 

Graeme Irvine, senior coroner for east London, presided over an inquest into her death on Tuesday, July 19, at which no family were present. 

He said Miss Ashley’s brother had informed the coroner's service that she had not been in contact with her family for 12 years. 

The former care home assistant’s remains were discovered when a neighbour called the police to raise concerns for her welfare. 

They had not seen Miss Ashley for months. Then, on January 14, they spotted flies in her windows. 

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The neighbour described Miss Ashley to police as a woman who “doesn’t go out much and keeps herself to herself”. 

But whereas they would usually see her every few weeks, they had not seen Miss Ashley since October 2021. 

Police forced entry to Miss Ashley’s home and were "greeted with the smell of decomposition”, said Mr Irvine. 

She was only identified on grounds that she was the sole registered occupant of the property. 

“It seems to me that the ID here is perhaps not the clearest, but I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the deceased was Janet Mary Ashley,” Mr Irvine told the temporary coroners’ court at Barking Adult College, Ripple Road. 

Police found no evidence of anybody having entered the property prior to their arrival. 

A post-mortem examination at Queen’s Hospital mortuary found “advanced decomposition and changes consistent with mummification”, which Mr Irvine said was normal when a body decomposes in a dry environment. 

There was no evidence of any external injuries, and while the examination found atherosclerosis - a hardening or thickening of the arteries - and possible cirrhosis of the liver, Mr Irvine said the cause of death was “unascertained due to advanced decompositional change”.