Case: Barnet buglary death: Maureen Whale
Maureen Whale
Case unsolved
Status: Unsolved
Categories: Robbery
Case synopsis:

Maureen Whale, 77, died after a burglary at her home in Bells Hill, Barnet.

She called police at 6.10am on 4 December 2018 after two men gained entry to the property and stole her bag while a third kept look-out.

Ms Whale, who lived alone, was not assaulted but collapsed while on the telephone to the police operator and was taken to hospital.

She died on the morning of 5 December 2018. A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as coronary heart disease, brought on by the stress of the break-in.

The Metropolitan Police said they were treating the death as manslaughter and confirmed they were also investigating three linked burglaries of jewellery in Bells Hill and Sampson Avenue and an attempted burglary in Raydean Road on the same night.

Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, of the Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: “We believe the same group of opportunist thieves targeted these addresses before making their way into Miss Whale’s home."

The two other burglaries in Bells Hill were reported to police at  6.20pm after occupants returned home to find the thieves had entered via rear balcony doors and stolen Turkish Lira and Euros. A break-in at Sampson Avenue, around half a mile away, took place between 11.45am and 6.45pm. Entry was gained via rear patio doors and £200 to £300 cash was stolen as well as around $900.

The suspects are described as white men in their 20s:

  • Suspect 1 was wearing a black zip-up gillet, a white or light coloured long-sleeved top underneath and a black or dark coloured woolly or beanie hat. He climbed over the outside gate and entered the house.
  • Suspect 2 wore a hooded long-sleeved top with two dark patches on the chest/shoulder and the top of the back, dark trousers and light-coloured trainers. He also entered the house.
  • Suspect 3 was wearing a dark long-sleeved hooded top or coat. The hood was up and it’s thought the suspect may have worn a baseball cap underneath. He also wore light, possibly grey, jogging style bottoms and dark or black trainers. He acted as a lookout.

Miss Whale’s handbag was later 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 her home.

Her family had lived in the same rented house in Bells Hill since 1928. She continued living there after her brother moved out and her parents died. She worked as a medical secretary, nurse, librarian and air stewardess but never married or had children and has been described by family members as “fiercely independent”. She visited the shops and loved gardening, classical music and art.

Her nephew Lawrence and her niece Gina said in a 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 of 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 you’re 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 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.

“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.”

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 or tweet @MetCC

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