‘Dreams Of A Life’ Doesn’t Tell The Full Story. People DID Notice Joyce Vincent’s Disappearance.

Yesterday I posted the widely circulated trailer for the British docudrama “Dreams of a Life”; a haunting story about a woman who allegedly went three years before anyone noticed she had died.

That premise alone is enough to make anyone pause in their tracks. But something about the version presented seemed overly simplistic. I mean yes – the job of a trailer is to tease the audience into wanting to see the whole film (and I definately do want to see it), but something just felt off.

So I did a bit of digging.

While having a discussion online about the story, one reader from England shared this with me:

From a BBC Radio 4 report I listened to, commentators were quite cross about this documentary because it was sensationalist and glossed over some facts whilst overemphasizing others – in short, it was very unbalanced.

Joyce was in fact a drifter and went in and out of people’s lives. People didn’t fret when she went away for ages at a time because it was part of her ordinary behavior.

Also, a major omission was the fact that Joyce’s sister had hired a Private Investigator to trace her well before she died and he carried on investigating until well after death.

There was no mention of this in the documentary and the focus was more on how everyone noticed Joyce, yet nobody noticed her at all …. Sure its an abstract concept that offers ripe intellectual fodder – but it completely veils the reality that people cared for and were looking for Joyce; her family – and Joyce cared enough to be wrapping xmas gifts for someone, probably them.

Ok so that changes everything.

To say that no one noticed she was dead for 3 years is a great and provocative spin for a movie, but not the entire truth. Her family desperately looked for her, for quite some time. And you don’t have to take my word for it.

When questioned – Carol Morley, the film maker admits:

At one point they [her family] hired a private detective and approached the Salvation Army to find Joyce. One of the sisters said that they should have hired me as I did a better job than the detective they hired. They were devastated by the loss of Joyce.

..I think many people, including myself, would realise that we too are not in touch with people, with family members, and often assume they those family members are off living a busy life.

Several sources also address the questions surrounding the logistics of her death. Below, I’ve assembled some key points:

  • She was a victim of domestic violence living in a flat set up by an organization that deals with victims.
  • With subsidized housing, part of her rent continued to be paid.
  • The mail was dropped directly into the apt through a slot on the door so that’s why no one noticed the pile up.
  • She lived in a seedy area where the trash bins and hallways were normally rank. Once they’d even found a dead junkie’s body in the elevator! So the smell of her decomposing body was assumed to be coming from the bins.
  • It was a noisy building frequented by drug addicts, so the sound of the tv wasn’t anything out of the norm.
  • No one contacted the domestic violence organization so they didn’t think there was any reason to check in on her. This practice has been updated since her story made the news. Now they visit tenants at least once a year.
  • Whenever neighbors knocked at the door, no-one answered, so they assumed it was unoccupied.
  • Both her parents are dead, but as stated before, her sisters were looking for her.
  • The director respected the wishes of Vincent’s sisters and an ex-fiancé, who chose not to take part in the film. So their side of this story is omitted.
  • They discovered her corpse only because – with her rent two years behind – the housing trust finally decided to repossess it.

Any way you slice it, it’s a bleak story. But the way it’s being marketed has caused many to (erroneously) assume negligence on the part of her family.

Coincidentally, in the middle of writing this post – I stopped and called my mom; just to make sure she was okay. It wasn’t until after we got off the phone that I realized why I’d felt so compelled to check in on her.

All those hours reading about Joyce had really gotten to me,

And I suspect that reaction will probably be the legacy of Ms. Vincent; she’s a reminder to all of us… to stay connected to those we love.

*While she is played by actress Zawe Ashton in the movie, below are pictures of the real woman behind this story.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

100 Responses to “‘Dreams Of A Life’ Doesn’t Tell The Full Story. People DID Notice Joyce Vincent’s Disappearance.”

  1. GWEN P. says:

    My first time hearing of and seeing this documentry left
    me simply sad. I guess the profound sadness of it all. But
    I truely feel that some sort mental illness is at play here
    and her life experiences only served to aggitate this.

  2. jenn. says:

    R.I.p joyce, very sad documentary made me cry at the end . I think joyce as a child was so traumatized by the ddeath of her mother she automatically blocked it out and wanted a brand new start so when family wanted to keep in touch she didn’t want the emotional commitment anyd to come across very reserved and strong to put on a fake happiness when she clearly was screaming inside. It seemed to me she was very depressed and ashamed of her childhood and closed off from the world. Hope you are in a better place which you deserve.

  3. Holly says:

    Appreciate your information. Personally, I am convinced Joyce was most likely abused…probably sexually by her father. IF this story is correct about HIM, one can bet Joyce was a victim of his sexual deviancy. Her sisters could have been too, which might explain the disconnect she lived out in her life. Families are notorious for denying abuse to protect themselves. Joyce spent her life emotionally damaged, void of her sense of ‘self’ and fearful of relationships. Running…just running. I pray she had an encounter with God in her time here on earth. God bless you Joyce in Jesus name.

  4. Michele says:

    Joyce’s behavior is very typical of someone with Bipolar 2 disorder, and/or depersonalization disorder. She also expressed to Martin that she “wasn’t feeling well” there towards the end — this is typical of someone who is in the early onset of schizophrenia. I am sure that Joyce’s traumatic childhood fed into her becoming a drifter who was torn between wanting a relationship with someone while fearing becoming attached to someone. It’s a very sad case.

  5. blue says:

    Dan – I don’t mind critiques. I’m aware the picture above is from the movie. That was done intentionally because the post is about the movie. The only pictures of the real Joyce are the last two. There was no error. Thanks for reading the piece tho! :)

  6. Sharon says:

    Just finished watching it and it’s so disturbing, yet one can’t help but watch. I think most of us have some sort of fear that something like this might happen to us, you know?

    I agree with the other person who said there was likely some sort of bipolar disorder or other mental illness at play here in addition to the abuse she incurred from a boyfriend (or boyfriends, as the case may be)and possibly the father.

    Any way you look at it, it’s deeply sad. What a beautiful woman she was!

  7. TEARS N MY EYES says:

    This was hard on my heart I think Joyce wanted what wasnt for her,this is hard for some people to give up on DREAMS

  8. Rene says:

    Thanks for some of the missing facts, Blue, and thank god for radio 4 as opposed to channel 4. Having come digging myself through extreme dis-comfort of the so called “story/facts/conclusion”, your additions certainly seem to put light on certain aspects. In fact, considering the nature of those missing facts, I’d go so far as to say that Morley’s portrayal makes a mockery of the truths.
    However, for some reason I still feel that same dis-comfort – even with the new facts. To use your own words, “…but something just felt off.”…and still does……

  9. Very interesting! I appreciate the follow up since, as you said, there were a lot of unanswered questions after watching the documentary. It was fascinating, but it was partial. This fills in some of the gaps nicely.

  10. Someone Afar says:

    No matter the missing facts, this story is just gutting. Whether or not her sisters looked for her, obviously madness that a PI couldn’t get there. The tele… That is the really amazing bit. I just can not understand how they werent round to her door about that pretty fast.
    Her so called friends were a bit unlikeable. Her former lovers seemed too eager…. I just dont believe them. One says she cant sing. The others say she was amazing. She stayed with one six months and she told him she wanted to marry…. I cant believe them. Its just so sad. I can relate to her disappearing often but at some point it had to be odd.

  11. shocked says:

    just watched this documentary today and found it really disturnbing. someone must have realised she wasnt coming and going from her flat. How come the TV was on for THREE YEARS . I find that really wierd ! and in this day and age with modern technology and dna etc. how come they dont know her cause of death, when archeologists can work out the death causes from bones that have been buriedfor hundreds of years ! Someone has to take responsibility for the poor girl, The neglect and dismissive attitude of the investigation would leave me to continue asking questions if that was my sister!

  12. observation says:

    I agree with the comments about the documentary. It didn’t seem very balanced. I find some of the speculations on her passing curious. I’ve seen bi-polar, schizophrenic (ridiculous observations – in my opinion, and my brother was diagnosed with and lives with both conditions), foul play but I haven’t’ seen too many talk about her taking her own life. It seems to me that the signs were all there. She listed her Bank Manager as her next of kin when admitted to the hospital right before passing, had a pile of unopened Christmas gifts she had wrapped next to her (which I feel was a message from her about the aloneness she felt in this world) – well after the holiday had passed, and an unwound tape of her singing recording. Truly a tragic story.

  13. Collier says:

    Such a shame a beautiful women lost her life and had been laying in her flat all that time I think Joyce was a lost soul a very young lady that needed a lot of help in her life and her friends could have seen this from what thy said in the film one of her friends/Exs said that he know she wasn’t working and then working as a cleaning and thn he come home one day and she was gone why didn’t he ring her and try find her to make sure she was ok and safe coz when she turn up at his house she said she was in trouble. R.I.P Joyce your in god hands now so u are safe and loved

  14. i understand says:

    SO SAD. Think Joyce was suffering from depression or some other mental illness. Think she felt very alone, the fact that she named her bank manager as her next of kin tells me she didn’t feel that her friends and family were important to her, or she felt she wasn’t important to them. She did try to get help from 2 of her ex boyfriends, i think they missed the singes, so sad that they obviously didn’t know her. Women who are being abused often hide it because of the embarrassment and shame they fee but some do confide in one person. I think its so sad that she didn’t feel she could confide in any of her friends or family.

    I totally agree with the comments made by Shocked, wake up and smell the coffee its 2013 and u cant say how she died, but you can tell us how someone from hundreds of years ago did.

    She was a beautiful women who who was in a very dark place, just a shame someone didn’t notice. I hope she is at peace now.

  15. Helen Doan says:

    I could relate to this documentary. She set out with big hopes and dreams and wound up in a small lonely space pushing into her 40′s. That would devastate and shame anyone who has no means to cope. She may not even be abused even though she sought refuge as a victim… She may just needed a place to stay. Her depression caused her to make certain decisions that landed her in tough times. Like a model who forever locked herself away in her apartment so that no one could witness her aging.

  16. Elisa says:

    I’ve often said that I would be rotting before anyone discovered me missing as I don’t keep in touch with people. However, living in a capitalist country – my landlord would surely find me well before 3 years time.

    She had obviously become reclusive (which plays into Gwen’s theory of mental illness, but I don’t think there were any signs of anything worse than depression). And since she was known as beautiful and elegant – I do believe pride played a big role. I mean to say: I understand why the writer here (known only as “blue”) wishes to protect Joyce’s sisters, however, I find it inexcusable that they DIDN’T know where she lived and had a P.I. looking for her. Who WERE those gifts for and when would she be “handing them out?” …

    Even my sister (who doesn’t even claim to love me) knows where I live..and I am several states away. Still, she has my address and emails me a couple of times per year. To me the sisters are to blame and the ex fiance’ and that’s exactly why they didn’t want to be in the documentary. What thing could they possibly say to excuse that? There WAS email in 2003..and snail mail had been around since her birth!!!

    As for the rest, dear Blue, it was all covered in the documentary…the presents all around her (for whom?)..the yucky bedsit, the post slat in the door is shown at the very beginning, etc,

    I wasn’t illuminated by this. I guess I really want to know why this woman died. No one with that much pride would likely kill themselves without cleaning up AT LEAST. Strange.

  17. Marie says:

    This documentary film has really affected me deeply. The portrayal of Joyce’ character in the film was like looking in a mirror. It’s as if I know her because I was her.

  18. Anna says:

    Thank you for “filling the gaps” in the story about Joyce. it it indeed tragic that ANYONE can be left out by society for so long. I can’t help but notice how many of the comments in here seems to suggest that it is that more tragic a story because she was so beautiful.. its tragic no matter who this kind of neglect happens to, and it reminds me that every day you have the responsability it is to notice those arround you and the signals they send.

  19. SIMONE says:

    her father did not die until 2004 so he had passed away after joyce work that one out..

  20. Emyr says:

    Fantastic effort on your research, very enterprising! Yours is the first article I’ve read which gives a different and fuller narrative. Very sad story, if only she could have found it in herself to be happy with Martin.

  21. H says:

    What was she admitted to the hospital for just a few days before her death? What were the medications they found in her home? From when were they dated? These are all clues to how she may have died. AND for whom were the Christmas gifts intended? Were there any names on the gifts? The documentary shows that one of the gifts was a tie…I don’t think it strange necessarily that her next of kin would be her bank manager…perhaps she was dating him or he was a friend…The documentary mentions that she used to go around with a click of bankers…

  22. shar says:

    I agree this story presented is very sad and tragic. But since she was a drifter and her family relationships were strained to some degree from the death of her mother and her father’s character, it is believable that this happened. If a person does not want to be found it’s possible to not be found. I do think that there was some personality disorder(s) involved and how the father was described I thought that there could have been some abuse at his hand. I work with children who have been abused and I’ve had experiences with adults who are drifters, and who isolate themselves from family and friends for years at a time. There are very seemingly “functional” and “personable” people who can be who they need to be at whatever given moment or event. They assimilate with whatever company they choose to keep for some time. Eventually they drift again either because they can’t keep up the facade or whatever. It’s sad but it’s possible…Lord help us

  23. [...] let you get the details on her story here, here and here. My take is that it really does speak to the social media life that we live now and the [...]

  24. Grafittix says:

    This documentary was interesting but left me with more questions than answers. I find the family’s silence disturbing for many reasons, particularly in respect to having a private investigator on the case. It’s hard to believe the investigation turned up nothing. I’m not sure how it works in England but in the States if Joyce were living in subsidized housing there would be public record of that address. Someone could go there and knock on the door, and if no answer tell Housing that there is a missing person and have it opened up.

  25. Nicki says:

    I’m watching this now,and no one thought to actually get into the apt…wow.

  26. jackie e. london says:

    Only her skeleton remained, so if she died from natural causes, it would have been impossible to tell.. You can’t extract blood from bones, so you can’t run any tests…

  27. Lorr says:

    Hi all who reading this, but in fact,, a feel very sorry for this woman, who’s family hasn’t kept in contact with her At All!! from seeing the documentary film bout some of her life,, Where Are U All? Where Are Those SISTERS?? very disappointed from no content from Joyce’s family,, sorry to say Shame on them!! coz a wouldn’t of done that to any of my family,, keeping in touch means keeping in touch through out life and would of been fine to of known that she was loved by her family, and a do think that there should be something else on TV bout her family more and what they have to say on the matter. what are they scared of,, if they were looking for her?? :(

  28. Georgina says:

    To my Father and my sister and brothers:

    i expect some day you will hear this story, only it will be about me. for many years you have not included me in anything having to do with family. just last month, i found out my father was in a serious car accident and spent 9 days in ICU. he’s 80 years old!! not one single person called to let me know. NO ONE.

    i have distanced myself from all of you because it hurts to be around you. you are toxic to me. i am sad i have no family. no relatives. my daughter has no aunt, no uncles, no grandparents. my heart aches for her.

    i hope you see this movie before it’s me they find dead for 3 years in a small apartment.

    and i hope god has mercy on you all for treating me this way.

  29. Tita says:

    The documentary was well put together. In my opinion, I think Ms. Vincent kept a low profile because she was a victim of abuse and perhaps this person was following her. That would explain why she “drifted” and sought protection with male friends whom she trusted. Perhaps it was her father, a male relative/sister’s husband, or someone influential in the company where she worked that made her miserable to the point where quit her job in finance. If there was abuse on part by a relative, this would explain why she distanced herself from her family. Or, she may have been terminally ill and wished not to burden anyone :(

  30. lee says:

    the woman making this film did not give a fuck about Joyce

    that fact that her family was trying to find her would not give her the drama she was looking for

    people don’t seem to understand she knew this BEFORE the film Was made but decided to go with her own story which
    is why there not in it!!!!


  31. Kate says:

    I cant help but feel she sold herself short in a lot of ways and I agree that her “friends” should have helped more. I’m not blaming anyone for her death because to me it seems that she didnt want to be found. I, like most people who watched this, found myself relating to so many parts of her character, the drifter, the show off, being liked and therefore exposed and vulnerable, yet secretive and probably unhappy. . I relate to her finding it hard to trust people but if you feel lonely you almost naturally do anyway. I didnt like the vibe I got from a lot of them, the guys wanting to sleep with her, her flatmate seemed somewhat bitter towards her, we can say that we dont know what really happened but if there was a real problem she wouldnt have done the interview. The Christmas presents were a massive thing to me, she either intended to see people…or did she? Did she commit suicide? Was there any evidence of suicide? You cant just die…..and where and who was the abusive boyfriend?? He may have killed her. Has anyone thought of this? Look at all the really old cases that are investigated, surely someone must want to know. I do.

  32. california woman says:

    her story seems very likely in the world that we live in–meaning that we are for the most part a superficial people in the west. materialism, capitalism, looksism, and yes even racism played roles here. her friends were primarily concerned with her being ‘fun’ and ‘beautiful’. she didn’t seem to have any true real friends. and she was estranged from family, so…

    most people only have acquaintances, not real friends who actually care about them. we lead superficial lives, let’s face it! she likely was depressed (lol at the person who suggested “early onset” of schizophrenia–at 35???). and why is everyone so quick to make the leap that simply because her father was a ‘ladies man’ that he sexually molested her and her sisters?!? REALLY? could it be because we’re so quick to assume the worst wherever a black man is concerned? as an american, i’m just surprised that it took 2 years for her to be evicted–that would NEVER happen in the states. it’s brutal out here!

  33. california woman says:

    oh, and if there really was a private investigator hired, they should sue him for a return of any and all monies paid because the first place he should’ve started was her last known address! helllloooooooo????

  34. sandra says:

    i think the last few post writers need to read the initial post by Blue, joyce’s sister was looking for her

  35. Heather says:

    Such a sad disturbing documentary. I personally feel as though she committed suicide. I know exactly how she felt. I sometimes wonder if I died who would miss me. P

  36. staci says:

    She received the housing because of being a victim domestic violence and those addresses are never divulged in public records – that’s the point of being protected by Victim’s Assistance agencies because they don’t want to facilitate the abuser finding the victim. Safe Housing. And a private investigator wouldn’t find the information through public records for that reason.

  37. Steve says:

    Tragic, I will learn from Joyce Vincent’s story, She did not leave any of us alone. We will not ever forget this story of neglect, ignorance and plain cruelty. No one, not one, in this documentary, saw fit to go the extra step in humanity to seek help,for someone who could not. The roommate who yelled her name as she was running away, wtf. Never thought to seek her out and help,her. They should feel guilt, maybe they can dedicate their remaining lives to honoring her by helping others who are hopelessly lost. Her life was a paramount example of how we do not have a clue of mental illness. Goodnight Joyce Vincent you have succeeded in moving our hearts.

  38. Rick says:

    I’m from a family of 8 yet we’re not a close knit unit. Not uncommon, a few of us live across the country, while most still live in close proximity or remain in the home state. It is not surprising for a year or more to lapse between communications, at least direct contact with each sibling. We do, however, get news of siblings from other siblings, etc. This story, while likely incomplete due to Joyce’s family silence on this film, was a bit of a wake-up call for me. Ms. Vincent cannot be stereotyped and most assuredly had emotional stresses stemming from the loss of her mother at such a young age, on top of being detached from her father.

    Family does matter and our assumptions about each other can be grossly misguided. Truth is stranger than fiction. I am grateful to be moved by this profoundly sad and tragic life story if only to realize that I should never let too much time pass between communications with family and friends. Life is much too fragile and short. Let us each put aside our petty differences and care for each other . . . starting with family.

    My condolences to the Vincent sisters and extended family.

  39. Frank says:

    I watched this movie after wanting to see it for some time and was disturbed by what happened to Joyce. Sad that her family didn’t find her, perhaps in time to help her. It appears to me that she was probably abused as a child and that horror mapped out her relationships for the rest of her life. Stomach ulcers was mentioned as a health issue and I believe that is what she died of … the ulcers causing internal bleeding. I assume the hospital records are sealed, perhaps they would give us some answers as to what happened to her.
    Rest In Peace Joyce

  40. David Breaux says:

    This story makes me mad and very sad!

    To think a private detective was looking for her, i think the sisters are some to blame?

    Obviously his investigative abilities sucked!

    The family was not as close as they claim for what ever reasons?
    She should have had some pictures to be posted when she passed away of herself of family of something that would have led to faster results after the fact i realize but still!

    As far as what i did see and feel from this is the black boyfriend who shot her down with her singing i think what a full blown turd he is!
    I dont care how speaking ones voice may sound, listen to the crap called music these days!
    A lot of that is what’s awful!
    His producing , recording, or promoting abilities are what suck! Whatever talents he claims, they lack!

    Mental health issues?
    WTF has any place or right to call others out there! Her father obviously a worthless undeserving turd as well! But why go make mention of any detail between her and him that has sexual relations?

    Overall i love this girl and till now have lost much faith, but find it slightly restored feeling she rest in gods hands at this very moment!
    And pray i end up there with her when my end soon comes!

    The cold lack of ability to express love among the English is what i see as part of the problem and globally so, considering they invaded every country the world over , or at least tried.
    And are at the sick heart of all society! And i have English blood so mark me racist but im not, i hate anything out to rule over others as superior when there hardly even an equal!

  41. David Breaux says:






  42. The presents says:

    It was very interesting to read these facts, so THANKYOU for adding them. And much like you mention- the presents. Overall, that is the thing that makes me think. If she had took the time to wrap and purchase those present- they would surely be for someone she had seen recently, at least within a month prior to her death I imagine.. Surely this person would have some form of concern, or perhaps they had done the same thing and made presents for her. So I imagine, IF they turned up, they would have realised that no one was answering, and called her phone/forcefully entered or visited again and tried these things. I assume that if those presents had even labelled it would have been known and stated somewhere… I hope.
    Why has no one tried to figure out from the presents who they could be for. For example, maybe all those presents were for a man- which would mean there was a male in her life friend/employer/relative/partner. Or maybe there had been something for a child, or woman, or something that could have indicated about someone.

  43. Lola says:

    I get it. But it’s not the depression. It’s the community disconnect. Jobs that take you further and further away from family. Family that have conflict and different values. I recently had friend become upset with me who I tried to connect with that she was with her family; however, when she needed help with a problem she reached out to me. Friends need to be friends when things are fun or uncomfortable.

    People also bring a friend in your circle at least try. I get it..

  44. Lonely NYC Girl says:

    Last night, while watching a TV series called Mary Jane ( 4th episode) in the States, this story was brought up. I didn’t know it was real until I researched and saw Joyce Vincent name pop up. It broke my heart to read how a woman died in her home of natural causes and was left unnoticed for 3 years. I live by myself in a small apartment in Manhattan and to think of something like that happen to me is frightening.

    I find it extremely devastating and disturbing that no one reached out to see how she was doing in 3 years; and how come not one neighbor in the domestic shelter thought about her whereabouts? Sounds a big weird to me. I’m going to watch the documentary tonight because I’m baffaled and curious to know more about Joyce Vincent life.

  45. ivory says:

    Where can I watch this documentary? ..im really interested. .so sad…

  46. Vivian Marvel says:

    He wasn’t a very good private investigator if he didn’t discover her dead in her own flat. I hope they got their money back.

  47. Tanya martin says:

    I find the whole story sad and believable, I’m curious though, who were the Christmas presents for? Did they have names on? If she cared enough to get presents for these people, were they traced? I have so many questions about this..

  48. cANDICE says:

    I’m sure tJoyce’s family needs to get on from this tragedy. THEY MUST BE too HEARTBROKEN to SPEAK ON THE DETAILS any further. She lives on in our hearts now.

  49. Varva says:

    Very sad story, really feel for poor Joyce.
    Re housing not being tracked by PI: it was for victims of domestic violence, that kind of information is kept very secret to avoid perpetrators finding the victims. You can’t even find DV refuges on google maps if you try, they are not listed addresses. What should have happened though are yearly health & safety checks for electrical power points , gas, etc. I’m surprised the housing association didn’t come round with a warrant to carry that out.
    My gut feeling is that she killed herself, but who knows.

  50. Alana says:

    I read most of the recent comments and many assumptions were made on her family not being there for her and there was a possibility of mental illness. But, it is possible that she was an extrovert who wore a mask all her life until she became a stranger to herself. It is also possible that she rejected her family and anyone who gets to close to her, she also had short term relationships to protect herself from getting to close to anyone. And the one person who saw the mask she was wearing and console her enough to make her feel that I am not interested in the inner self of Joyce moreso the true Joyce was her bank manager.

    Nb: Christmas gifts certainly does not mean she was close to anyone it’s probably just an image or front that kept giving others to show them that ALL is well. And it probably was not for her family but for persons she felt close enough to at the point of time

Leave a Response


Required, won't be published