Death of a model: a morality tale of our times

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The Independent Online
LISA EDWARDS had dreamt of becoming a model. She had the face, the figure and enough ambition to get together a portfolio of studio-quality photographs and lodge them with a modelling agency. She also had a drug habit.

But this was no case of misguided "heroin chic". Rather, it was an obsession that was to claim her life in the most squalid of circumstances.

Ms Edwards, 33, was found dead in her south London flat on Tuesday morning. It was revealed yesterday that her badly decomposed body was there for up to three months. It is also thought that she may have been pregnant.

Perhaps worse still, neighbours believe that during that time - while the corpse was there - other drug users may have continued to use the flat as a place to "shoot up".

"I heard the police break down the door and heard one policeman shout, `I think I'm going to be sick'," a neighbour, Audrey Brown, said yesterday.

"Another one said, `I can't look at that'. The police told me the place was full of flies and her body had rotted. They said she might have been there for up to three months.

"I feel really sick. To think I have been living so close and without realising Lisa was dead next door."

Ms Edwards' spiral into drug addiction is a classic case of lost opportunities. It is understood that 10 years ago she was happily involved in a steady relationship and was bringing up a young daughter. But following the death of her partner, she fell into drugs and a lifestyle that was to end in tragedy in a anonymous council flat.

Police were yesterday trying to trace Ms Edwards' last moments. It is understood she was last seen alive at Christmas. While her neighbours in East Dulwich knew her to be a user of both heroin and crack cocaine, people thought she was succeeding in her fight against addiction.

A former boyfriend, Adam John, was yesterday reported as saying Ms Edwards was planning to spend Christmas with her daughter. "She was a sweet thing, a nice, bubbly girl who everyone liked. She had a drug problem but was trying hard to kick it," he said. "I decided to leave her to get in touch with me. It's like that when you're trying to kick drugs - you want to make sure you are clean before going back to your friends."

But behind whatever public persona she may have presented, it is clear Ms Edwards was a woman in trouble. She owed rent money to the local authority, Southwark Borough Council, and she had other outstanding debts. It was a private company of bailiffs that called the police on Tuesday when it could not get an answer at her flat. And despite Ms Edwards' intention to kick drugs, it is understood that she died from an overdose. Further post-mortem tests are still to be conducted, but a police source said yesterday: "It does seem drugs were involved. There were no suspicious circumstances."

Staff at Southwark Borough Council admitted yesterday that Ms Edwards had been known to both them and the staff at Maudsley Hospital as a drug user. The council had not offered her residential rehabilitation because she had not been able to kick the habit long enough to pursue a detoxification course. "That is the way that it works," said a council spokesman. "If they do not go through with the programme they do not get offered the residential rehabilitation."

Esther Parsons, who lives below Ms Edwards' flat, said that since last seeing Ms Edward at Christmas she had heard footsteps upstairs. "We have seen people going up the stairs and then heard footsteps in the flat," she said. "I just assumed they were junkies going to use the flat to take drugs. It never crossed my mind there could be a dead person lying there at the same time."

Another neighbour, Jean Dyer, said she had seen Ms Edwards at Christmas, bent over in the street and explaining that she thought she was pregnant. "She was a such a nice girl - she just needed a friend."

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