Residents of the Saint-Cyprien neighbourhood in Toulouse have been left stunned after the discovery on Thursday of the remains of Fernande Broca – a 76-year-old woman who lived alone and is believed to have died in 2010.
“We just thought she had left,” a neighbour told regional daily La Dépêche.
Another young neighbour of Broca told La Dépêche: “In five years, I bumped into her twice on the stairs of the apartment block."
“When I noticed that her windows were closed after a while, I thought she had gone to live in a retirement home.”
The last known sighting of Broca – described by her neighbours as quiet and solitary – was in a local shop, in March of that year. The elderly lady's shopping trips appear to have been her only excursions outside her apartment.
Although financial statements and spam mail had visibly piled up outside Broca’s front door, neighbours did not check in on her.
According to La Dépêche, Broca’s rent as well as water and electricity bills, continued to be paid electronically for three years after her death.
In the end, certain residents of Place Olivier grew worried after several attempts were made to contact her in recent days and eventually they decided to alert local authorities.
Police and firefighters entered the first-floor apartment on Thursday morning, and made the grim discovery of Broca’s remains.
A preliminary medical examination indicated that she had died some three years ago, though no cause of death has been identified, pending a full post-mortem in the coming days.