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'To lose her this way is heartbreaking': Family's plea after post-mortem reveals pensioner died before house fire

Norma Bell was found dead at her home in Hartlepool.

Norma Bell
Norma Bell
Image: Cleveland Police

POLICE HAVE LAUNCHED a murder investigation following the discovery of a 79-year-old woman’s body at her house in Hartlepool.

Police found Norma Bell’s body after being called to a house fire at an address on Westbourne Road at around 8.25am yesterday.

Following a post-mortem examination, it has been confirmed that Bell died prior to the fire in her home.

The pensioner was a mother of three biological children and a foster mother to more than 50 foster children. She had lived on Westbourne Road for 27 years and would have celebrated her 80th birthday next month.

Her family released the following statement:

Our mum was a loving and caring person who lived for her family. To lose her in this manner is heartbreaking. We would urge anybody with information regarding the death of our mother to come forward and speak to police. We also ask for privacy at this sad time to allow us to come to terms with this huge loss.

At a press conference held at Cleveland Police headquarters today, Detective Superintendent Alastair Simpson said: “Our thoughts are with Norma’s family and friends at this incredibly distressing time.

“We now know, following a post-mortem examination held yesterday, that Norma died prior to the fire in her home and we have launched a murder investigation.

“Officers are carrying out a number of lines of inquiry including house-to-house and CCTV enquiries. Neighbourhood officers will provide a high profile presence in the area and will continue patrols to provide some reassurance to those living in the local community.”

Motive

Simpson said it is “too early to say what the motive is or whether the suspect was known to Mrs Bell”.

I would remind anyone in the local area who may have an elderly or vulnerable relative or neighbour to check on them. Check that there is nothing out of the ordinary in relation to them or their property.

He added that people should “not allow anyone into their home who is not known to them or who purports to be an official from an organisation without first checking their identification”.

Simpson asked anyone living in the local area who may have seen or heard anything suspicious from late on Saturday evening into Sunday morning to contact police.

“If anyone has information that may be linked to this investigation then I urge them to come forward. You can do so by calling Cleveland Police on 101 or contacting Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111,” he said.

Read: Family squats at abandoned council house to escape ‘indescribable’ emergency accommodation

Read: Man who staged armed robbery with Love/Hate actor jailed for four years

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Órla Ryan

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