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Images released as appeals continue following death of woman in Barnet

News   •   Dec 11, 2018 06:00 GMT

Image: Maureen Whale

The family of 77-year-old Maureen Whale who died following a burglary at her home in Barnet have made an emotional appeal for information as police release an image of her wallet which was stolen during the break in.

The small brown wallet was used by Maureen on a shopping trip earlier in the day. An image of two boys on a bike police are keen to speak with has also been released by detectives today.

A post-mortem examination on Friday, 7 December at Northwick Park Hospital gave the 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.

Detectives will be returning to Barnet later today, Tuesday, 11 December, a week on from the death of the elderly woman following a burglary at her home.

Officers will hand out leaflets in the local area and stop and speak to drivers and passers-by between 16:15hrs and 18:15hrs as they continue their appeals for witnesses and information.

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

Her nephew Lawrence and her niece Gina released the following statement:

“It is heart-breaking that our Aunt Maureen is no longer with us; this last week has felt like a nightmare. She should have been safe in the house that she lived in all her life and we now ask how this could of happened? The last thing she or anybody else would have ever expected, is for burglars to break in whilst she was at home. This must have been a truly terrifying ordeal for her. All we think about now, is of how vulnerable and scared she must have felt.

“We pay tribute to the police, ambulance and hospital staff who fought so hard to keep our Aunt Maureen with us and we are especially grateful to the 999 operator who showed such compassion and reassurance; no one will ever know how hard you all work. Thank you all for trying to save her life.

“Our Aunt Maureen should still be with us and she should have celebrated her 78th birthday this week on Thursday. She was a private, independent woman who was extremely proud and didn’t deserve to die in this way. We urge people to come forward with any information. The police need the names of those responsible. This is a terrible crime to occur to any person. As a family, we hope justice will be served.”

Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, of the Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: “Everything we have heard indicates that Miss Whale was a wonderful lady and she had everything to live for. She had every right to feel safe in her home - the place she was born and lived for 77 years. I am in no doubt that the burglars knew that there was a lone female in the address.

"Criminals will have been talking about this wicked crime and now is the time to break the criminal code of ‘not snitching’ and offer these burglars up. And when you are contemplating whether to make that call, think of how frightened Maureen would have been, how you would feel if that was your mum or nan, you would be appalled and you wouldn’t sit in silence! Maureen should have been celebrating her 78th birthday this week and she was very much looking forward to Christmas; all ruined by the greed of three burglars, who I believe knew she was in the address.

“Girlfriends, Mums you will know who these individuals are, I am sure that you will recognise them from the CCTV; their behaviour is likely to have changed after the media coverage; you may even have turned a blind eye to how they make their money; now you cannot stay silent knowing what has happened to Maureen, have the confidence to make that call.”

“We will be back in the local area later today hoping to trace anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious that night or has any information about the suspects.

“We really need the public’s help, so far few people have come forward. We are still keen to trace two young white lads, aged around 12 and 15, on bikes in the Bells Hill area at that time. They are thought to be local and approached and spoke to the first officers on the scene. They are potentially really important witnesses and I would urge them to get in touch - if you are nervous about contacting police, speak to a teacher, parent or trusted adult but you are not in any trouble. We have released an image of the boys today in the hope this encourages them to come forward.

“We also need to speak to the driver of a small four-door hatchback car, which travelled up Bells Hill towards Lexington Way, 17:52hrs. The car may have been a Skoda Fabia and the driver travelled directly past our suspects.

“Last week we issued images of jewellery stolen in other linked break-ins that night – we would still appeal to any pawnbrokers or indeed any ‘handlers’ of stolen goods to consider the awful circumstances of what has happened to a wonderful elderly lady and do the right thing and come forward with any information.

”We remain keen to speak to anyone who spotted any vehicles they didn’t recognise and didn’t belong in Bells Hill, from Trinder Road up to the junction with Lexington Way, and the surrounding roads off Bells Hill.”

Police were called at 18:01hrs on Tuesday, 4 December 2018 to reports of a burglary at Miss Whale’s home.

She called police after two suspects gained entry to her home and stole property, including, it is believed, her bag. They spend around four minutes inside the property before making off.

While speaking on the telephone to a police operator, Miss Whale, who lived alone, collapsed.

Police and 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.

Her next of kin have been informed.

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 gillet 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 – 18:30 hrs. This was an attempt – no property was stolen.

Detectives are appealing for anyone who works in a bureau de change who might have been asked to change those foreign currencies into sterling in the last few days to also get in touch.

Miss Whale’s family had lived in the same rented house in Bells Hill since 1928; after her brother moved out and her parents died, Miss Whale continued living at the property. She had previously worked in a variety of jobs including as a medical secretary, nurse, librarian and air stewardess but never married or had children. She was in regular contact with her niece and nephew who have described her as “fiercely independent”. She visited the shops and loved gardening, classical music and art.

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 0208 785 8099 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. You can visit https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/forms/give-information-anonymously or tweet @MetCC