A "substantial" amount of cash and a handbag were stolen from an elderly woman who was murdered before her house was set alight.
Norma Bell, 79, was found dead in the burnt remains of her property in Westbourne Road, Hartlepool on Sunday.
Police have confirmed that the "loving and caring" pensioner - who took care of more than 50 foster children as well as three of her own - was killed before the fire began.
Officers also believe cash - in the hundreds of pounds - and Ms Bell's handbag were stolen.
Ms Bell, who was due to celebrate her 80th birthday next month, is believed to have been killed some time between late evening on Saturday and the morning of Sunday.
Detective Superintendent Alastair Simpson said: