“Frail lovely lady” collapsed on phone to police after two men forced way into her London home

A “frail lovely lady” collapsed on the phone to police after two men forced their way into her home to steal.

The 77-year-old who lived alone and named locally as Maureen Whale died this morning after trying to report the break-in at her home yesterday teatime.

Officers and paramedics resuscitated her but she died in hospital today sparking a murder investigation.

Neighbours claimed four homes were targeted by a gang of burglars around the same time yesterday in High Barnet as Murder Squad detectives hunt two men in their 20s.

A neighbour said Mrs Whale was ‘frail’ and a ‘lovely lady’, who lived at the small house with pebbledashed walls.

She said: “Maureen was targeted because she was so frail, how could they do this to such a lovely lady.”

Another added: “There’s a halfway house type building at the end of the road, it is full of druggies who plague the area.

“And there’s a crack house, you see people in and out all the time – it has got a lot worse round here.

“The people that did this were in a gang that rob people all the time.

“That poor woman lived on her own – I didn’t know her but her next door neighbour used to tell me she was vulnerable.”

Another said: “They broke into four houses here last night, my mate’s home was burgled at six o’clock in the evening.

“Police are too busy trying to catch people on their phones or arguing online.

“We want to do something about it but we’d end up in trouble – these sickos went on a rampage.”

White flowers had been left on the front doorstep of the the house where a crime scene remains in place.

The house across the street has also been cordoned off by cops, with two officers keeping watch of the property.

It comes just one month after World War Two veteran Peter Gouldstone, 98, was killed by burglars five miles away in Enfield.

Scotland Yard are not currently linking the two incidents – but stated they are “keeping an open mind in their investigation”.

A spokesperson said: “An investigation has been launched in Barnet after an elderly woman died following a burglary.

“Police were called at 6pm on Tuesday, December 4 to reports of a burglary at a residential address in Bells Hill, Barnet.

“The victim, called police after two suspects had forced entry to the premises and had stolen property.

“While on the telephone to the police operator, the woman collapsed.

“Police and London Ambulance Service attended – emergency CPR was given by attending officers.

“The 77-year-old woman was taken to a north London hospital in a critical condition.

“She died on the morning of Wednesday, December 5.

“Her next of kin have been informed and a post-mortem examination will be held in due course.

“A crime scene is in place and enquiries are underway to establish if the burglary is linked to other similar offences in the area.

“At this early stage there have been no arrests – enquiries continue.”

DCI Noel McHugh from the Homicide and Major Crime Command said: “Our focus now is catching the culprits behind this burglary which has contributed to the death of an elderly woman.

“We are doing everything we can to build a clear picture of this incident.

“This includes looking at three other break ins that have been reported in the nearby area.

“Work is ongoing to establish if they are linked – three of the four properties targeted were empty when the burglaries took place.

“Both suspects involved are described as white males aged in their twenties and of thin build – they wore dark woolly hats and dark clothing.

“Any burglary is an awful and harrowing experience which can leave many feeling uncomfortable in their own homes.

“This burglary has ended with the worst possible consequences, a wonderful elderly lady has died.

“With that in mind, I want to reach out and make a direct appeal to anyone from the criminal fraternity who has information to contact us.

“You will know and discussions will be going on about who is involved and where any stolen property is, I need you to have the confidence to call police and let us know who is responsible.

“The public will see a significant police presence in the area.

“This will include house to house enquiries, CCTV gathering and forensic work to identify the individuals involved.”

Chief Superintendent Simon Rose from North West Area said: “These break-ins and the subsequent death of an elderly woman will no doubt cause concern and alarm to those in the area.

“Locals can expect to see an increased police presence in the area.

“We are there to help them and support the local community but need their help also.

“If you live or were passing through Bells Hill flats in Barnet yesterday evening – did you see anything suspicious.

“Have you got information that could assist police – we need to hear from you urgently to catch those responsible.”

By Daniel Hammond

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