This is the tragic story of Isabel Rivera Hernández. She was totally alone in the last years of her life in her apartment in the Arturo Soria neighbourhood of Madrid. While occasionally people did wonder what had happened to her, each month her community fee on her apartment was paid, as were her electricity and water bills. She had even made a contribution towards a new roof on the building. These were covered, because her pension was paid into her account automatically each month.

If you asked her neighbours today, they will tell you they haven’t seen the elderly lady in years. Her bills were piling up in her mailbox, along with an invitation to vote in the November 10 Spanish general election. Only occasionally did someone thinks something might be wrong with the elderly lady.

Niece suddenly remembers her aunt

On Tuesday last week, a relative of Isabel finally remembered her presence after 15 years.

Finally concerned for her aunt’s welfare, the niece called the police. As the elderly lady had left her keys inside the front door, firefighters were called to Isabel’s apartment, and they climbed onto her balcony to enter the apartment.

On arrival inside, police discovered the mummified remains of Rivera. It turns out she had passed away from natural causes while enjoying a soak in the bath. According to the police, due to the humid conditions in the bathroom, along with the perfect amount of ventilation, her remains had mummified and were in a remarkably good condition.

According to a report by The Local, an autopsy showed she had been deceased for somewhere between 14 to16 years.

Rivera was born in 1926 and she had passed away before her 80th birthday.

She has lived in her apartment since 1965. However, she wasn’t always alone, for around 20 years, Isabel had lived with a divorced architect by the name Juan Molina Muñoz. However, after Molina got involved in managing the community in the apartment building, things became difficult between him and the neighbors, leading to the couple being isolated. Molina eventually died, leaving Isabel all alone.

Rivera has lost any contact she had with her immediate family and she and her neighbours rarely spoke, except when Isabel complained to her immediate neighbour about smells and noise in the apartment. The last time anyone can confirm they had actually seen her was in September 2004.

Rivera was almost found several times

In January 2014, a cable was accidentally left on Isabel’s balcony when the municipality took down the Christmas lights in her street.

As the cable was connected to a street light, Emilio Muñoz, 78, one of her neighbours, was concerned that a burglar would be able to climb on to her balcony. He reported it to the police and they came and removed the cable. Whether they knocked on her door at the time is unknown. Muñoz said recently that they all believed she must be alive and what could they do?

At a later stage, the manager of the La Caixa bank in her street became curious, because while their client was paying monthly bills on time, she didn’t appear to have any daily expenses, like shopping for groceries and such.

The manager visited Isabel’s apartment on a number of occasions, but as no one answered the door, she gave up.

As reported by El Pais, however, a group of Isabel’s neighbours became concerned when they noticed the interest of the bank and went to the police to report her disappearance. They mentioned that someone had to keep emptying her mailbox, as no one was collecting the letters and bills.

Police gave the neighbours the number of Isabel’s sister-in-law. They called her, and the sister-in-law said she believed Isabel was alive and was likely living in an old age home in Madrid.

All this time, poor Isabel lay in her bath, gradually mummifying, receiving her monthly pension payments and paying her monthly bills, until finally she was found 15 years later.

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