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Handbag recovered as investigation into manslaughter of Maureen Whale continues

News   •   Dec 20, 2018 06:30 GMT

[Maureen Whale}

Detectives investigating the circumstances of the death of Maureen Whale after her Barnet home was burgled have found the handbag stolen by the suspects, and are renewing appeals for information.

Maureen, 77, died in hospital following a break-in at her life-long home on Bells Hill in Barnet, shortly before 18:00hrs on Tuesday, 4 December. The suspects are believed to have targeted three other properties in the local area that evening.

She had called police while the intruders were in her property, and collapsed whilst speaking to the operator. Police and the London Ambulance Service attended. Emergency first aid was given by attending officers.

Miss Whale was taken to a north London hospital in a critical condition where she sadly died on the morning of Wednesday, 5 December.

A post-mortem examination gave her cause of death as coronary heart disease - death brought on by the stress of the incident, caused by the stress of the break-in. She had not been assaulted.

Her death is now being treated as manslaughter. The investigation is being led by detectives from the Met's Homicide and Major Crime Command.

On Thursday, 13 December, Maureen's black handbag - which is leather in appearance - and containing her personal effects, was found stuffed in a hedge just to the right of the road sign on the outskirts of Ravenscroft Park, nearly half a mile north of Maureen's home in Bells Hill.

Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, of the Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: "This is a highly significant discovery by a member of the public. We are confident that after burgling Maureen's house, the suspects made their way up Bells Hill.

"We believe they then most probably walked through or around Ravenscroft Gardens [the park] which would have been open at the time.

"I would like to appeal for anyone who was around Ravenscroft Gardens and Ravenscroft Park between 6 and 6.30pm on 4 December. Did you see three males - matching the CCTV images - loitering, disposing of the bag, or otherwise acting suspiciously? We are asking local people to think back and retrace your steps to establish if you were in the area. If you were in the area and you didn't see anything - it would be helpful to hear from so we can build up a picture of who was about.

"We have had a good response to previous appeals; through the public we have traced the two males on the bicycles, but no arrests have been made to date and we still need the help of the community to identify the people behind this.

"Had Maureen Whale not been burgled, she would have celebrated her 78th birthday on 13 December and she would now be preparing to celebrate Christmas.

"I am appealing to burglars and handlers - you will know who is responsible, a wonderful lady is no longer with us due to the callous actions of three burglars, willing to break into a house when an elderly lady was at home alone - you owe them no loyalties."

Since Maureen's death, officers have released CCTV images of the suspects, appealed to trace two young boys seen in the area being sought as potentially important witnesses, and also for information on jewellery stolen during linked burglaries in the area that evening.

Police also want to speak to the driver of a small four-door hatchback car, which travelled up Bells Hill towards Lexington Way at 17:52hrs. The car may have been a Skoda Fabia and the driver travelled directly past the suspects. That driver has not yet come forward.

Initial enquiries have established that Suspect [1] climbed over the outside gate, opened the gate, then entered the house. Suspect [1] was wearing a black zip-through gilet over a light-coloured long-sleeved top. He also wore a dark-coloured woollen hat/beanie.

Suspect [2] who also entered the house wore a long-sleeved top with dark patches. He wore a hood up [possibly fur trim on hood] with dark trousers and light-coloured trainers.

Suspect [3] acted as a look-out at the window. He was dressed in a long-sleeved, dark-coloured hooded top/jacket. He wore a baseball cap underneath the hood of his jacket, light-coloured jogging bottoms and dark trainers.

The incident is being linked to burglaries at two more properties in the same road plus an address in Sampson Avenue, Barnet.

The other two break-ins at Bells Hill were reported to police at 18:20hrs that day; both had occurred around 17:35hrs. Entry was via rear balcony doors. As well as the jewellery, around £30 worth of Turkish Lira and about £100 of Euros were stolen.

A burglary at Sampson Avenue, around half a mile away, was reported at 18:45hrs. It had taken place sometime after 11:45hrs that day. Entry was via rear patio doors and £200 - £300 cash was stolen as well as around $900.

We have linked a further attempted burglary at Raydean Road which occurred between 13:00 - 18:30hrs. This was an attempt - no property was stolen.

There have been no arrests at this stage. Increased police patrols continue in the local area.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the police incident room on 020 8785 8099 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. You can visit https://crimestoppers-uk.org/giveinformation/forms/give-information-anonymously or tweet @MetCC