Investigators are searching for a gas engineer who visited the home of Laura Winham, who is believed to have been dead for almost four years before being found. Laura, 38, was said to have been found in a “mummified and skeletal state” when her brother discovered her body in her Surrey flat in May 2021.
It was believed that Ms Winham had died in November 2017. However, Kate O’Raghallaigh, who was acting on behalf of Ms Winham’s family at the pre-inquest review, has now said into her death that a gas engineer visited her home in January 2018, with investigators hoping this visitor could potentially hold key clues into the circumtances surrounding her death.
Ms O’Raghallaigh added that a signature given to the gas engineer at the time of the visit “does not match” previous signatures given by Ms Winham. The 38-year-old lived in a social housing property in Woking at the time of her death and had a distant relationship with her family due to mental health issues.
She is said to have been referred to social care twice before her death. Ms Winham’s sister, Nicky, has said that the family had lost contact with her as she battled with schizophrenia.
In 2014, Ms Winham - whose cause of death has not yet been established - was referred to Woking Community Mental Health Recovery and her GP over “untreated mental health issues”, however her family has said that this was not followed up by professionals. Surrey Police had also told Surrey County Council in October 2017 that Ms Winham had been “self-neglecting, had little food, and appeared unaware of how to access local services for help”.
What was said at the pre-inquest hearing?
Ms O’Raghallaigh told the pre-inquest hearing that Surrey County Council failed to follow up on the report of Ms Winham’s self-neglect. She said: “There was a risk to Laura of malnutrition and self-neglect in October 2017 when she was observed by police.”
Surrey County Council have accepted that it failed to check in with Ms Winham following Surrey Police’s report. Katie Ayers, representing the council, said: “What Surrey County Council has accepted is that a section nine check should have been completed but it was not,” she said.
Ms Ayers added: “There may have been a risk in relation to malnutrition. At this stage that would seem to be speculative.” Ms O’Raghallaigh added that the fact the cause of death has not yet been established is a “very unusual factor in this case”.
Investigators have also been unable to nail down a time of death for Ms Winham. It was believed that she passed away in November 2017 after she stopped marking days off of a calendar in her flat, with the last entry reading ‘I need help’.
Ms O’Raghallaigh has asked for assistant coroner Dr Karen Henderson to employ the use of a forensic anthropologist to determine the cause and time of death. Dr Henderson had said that she will provide a written decision on the matter in the coming weeks.
When will the full inquest take place?
Dr Henderson has scheduled a second pre-inquest review to take place at Surrey Coroner’s Court on 15 March. A full inquest into Ms Winham’s death is due to take place on 3 April.