WOMAN WASHED HER FRIEND’S CORPSE FOR THREE WEEKS

A woman lived with decaying body of her pensioner friend for up to three weeks following his death, an inquest heard.

Jane Cappleman washed and dragged around the naked corpse of 75-year-old Anthony Sherman after he died from unknown causes.

Worried neighbours eventually called the police after spotting her burning his clothes in the garden of the south London flat, Southwark Coroner’s Court heard.

After officers battered down the door, Ms Cappleman told them she thought she had been tending to the remains of Osama Bin Laden.

By the time it was discovered, Mr Sherman’s body was too badly decomposed to shed light on how he died.

An analysis of insects that had hatched on his flesh concluded he had been dead for around three weeks.

Recording an open verdict, Assistant Deputy Coroner Belinda Cheney said it was impossible to know how Mr Sherman died.

‘It’s difficult because we really don’t have enough evidence for any type of verdict,’ she said.

‘While it seems tempting to say this is natural causes, we have no information about that and, of course, the post-mortem report could not assist in any meaningful way.

‘In the circumstances I feel the only verdict open to me is an open one.’

Police forced entry to the ground-floor flat in Cross Close, Peckham, shortly after 2.30pm on May 3 last year.

In a witness statement, paramedic Sebastian Clover said even before emergency services entered it was obvious from the smell that Mr Sherman was dead.

‘The flat was extremely dirty and untidy,’ he said.

‘When I opened the door to the back room I found a person lying on the floor. The body was wrapped in a sheet and was heavily decomposed.’

A short while later police arrested Ms Cappleman on suspicion of failing to report the death to the authorities.

The charges were ultimately dropped after a judge at Kingston Crown Court ruled she was unfit to plead, after which she was detained under the Mental Health Act.

In a police interview, Ms Cappleman, thought to be aged in her 60s, said she had known Mr Sherman, described by neighbours as a ‘well-spoken quiet man’, for around 10 years after meeting him in church.

The pair had never been romantically involved, she said, adding that she lived with him and he gave her £20 a week as ‘pocket money’.

Summarising her account, Detective Constable Andy Faiers said Ms Cappleman claimed to have been at the flat for three weeks but was ‘adamant the deceased was not Mr Sherman.’

She variously claimed she thought he was former Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, or that he ‘must have been Australian or American because they’re nudists’.

DC Faiers added: ‘She knew he was dead but didn’t know what to do.

‘There appeared to be drag marks on the floor, indicating the body had been moved, and she said she moved him so she could wash him every day.

‘She cleaned his face, chest and upper back with a flannel.’

VERDICT: Open

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