Tale of two alcoholics: From rags to riches, back to rags and lonely deaths

by Pearl Thevanayagam

(London, July 19,London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Monica and her husband were dead for three weeks before their bodies were discovered in their bedroom in North-West London. Yet there was not a single news item in the local papers. When I went to church yesterday the parish priest asked me if I knew about what happened to Monica and I drew a blank. Then he told it was perhaps months ago this happened.

Let me begin at the beginning. I met Monica during Christmas in 2007 under very distressing circumstances. I had seen her often in the corner shop simply waiting without speaking. Then I fell into conversation with her and she gradually started talking about herself.

Monica was brought up in an orphanage in Kandy. At the age of five the nuns gave her for `adoption’ to a family who made her do all the housework and tied her in chains if she mis-behaved. The nuns hearing about her plight then left her with a Burgher family who treated her kindly.

When she turned fifteen a wealthy Italian couple saw Monica working in a hotel and agreed to take her to Ireland as their housekeeper. Monica had the most wonderful time in her life being treated to a life of luxury and being in charge of the household. Her employer was a wealthy arms manufacturer and soon Monica earned the family’s trust and she was taken on foreign holidays with them wherever they went.

By the time she reached 21 she was a comely lass with long shiny hair and she soon became his mistress. She shopped for him at Harrods, was allowed carte blanche to spend money as she pleased and she even flew his helicopters.

In 1991 Monica’s employer passed away but he left £100,000 in his will for Monica. But after her husband’s death her mistress threw her out. She returned to Sri Lanka and got married to a Burgher. Then She brought him back to England and they bought a house in a leafy suburb and life should have been rosy but for one major hindrance. Both were alcoholics. Soon they frittered away their money and were on the streets.

On the day I met Monica in 2007 she was dribbling at her mouth obviously very drunk and bleeding from her forehead. I heard her mumble that she had to fetch her daughter from school. I said I would accompany her and when we reached the school it was well past five pm. The school secretary said that one of the teachers had taken the 10 year old to her house since nobody turned up to collect her.

Then we went to the teacher’s house and managed to bring her home. But this was not the only instance. Monica was always legless even at 10.00 am and she forgot to pick her daughter up from school. Her husband too was in no better condition.

Then on another day I heard the ambulance outside my house and true to form I saw Monica’s bleeding husband being picked up from the street by paramedics and then a police car following with sirens. Monica was assaulted by her husband.

I took Monica to my house and then went to the school to collect her daughter. I then kept them both in my house and soon the police arrived along with a social worker. While the social worker was arranging to take her daughter into care I temporarily gave them refuge in my small apartment.

Then two weeks on her husband had escaped from police custody. The police came to see me and I took Monica and her daughter to the police station. Monica told police that her husband often assaulted her and even threatened her with a knife when she refused to give him the child’s benefits.

Somehow after a few days her husband was released from police custody and for a while they seemed a happy family. Then one night the family was at my door again. Monica said her landlord had thrown them out for not paying the rent for nearly six months. Once more I kept them in my house. Another week went by I accompanied Monica to her house to find all her belongings thrown out on the pavement. It was snowing in February 2008.

I went to the Council to see if they would give them emergency accommodation. Since Monica did not keep her council papers in order they refused. Even charity organizations could not give her accommodation and my landlord refused me to give them refuge since they were eternally drunk

So they slept in the nearby park or outside the church during the harsh winter. Monica’s adoptive aunt only agreed to look after the daughter and refused to keep the couple in their home. She also was given custody of the daughter by the Social Services.

Then the last time I met Monica she was well-dressed and seemed happy with her husband. She told me the Social Services had agreed to provide accommodation for them and that she would soon have her daughter. The last time I saw Monica was early last year. The family were re-united.

So it came as a shock to me when I heard Rev. Fr. John tell me that they were buried by the Social Services but there had been no investigation into their death. And how come it was three weeks before their putrefacting bodies were discovered.

So many questions remain unanswered. How come they died together even if was from overdose of alcohol? What abut the adoptive aunt or the daughter? It must have been about a month ago I saw the daughter in church with her adoptive aunt. She was avoiding me and I did not want to embarrass her so I walked away.

I think the Sri Lankan High Commission should take steps to demand a full investigation into these sad and sorry deaths.