- Video report by ITV News Correspondent Martha Fairlie
An “extremely distressing” 999 call made by a pensioner who died from a heart attack after she was burgled has been released as her family appeal for help to bring those responsible to justice.
Maureen Whale, 77, was at home in Bells Hill, Barnet, at around 6pm on December 4 when two men broke into her home and stole her handbag.
She collapsed while on the phone to a 999 operator and was taken to hospital in a critical condition. The former air stewardess died the following day.
A post-mortem examination found her death from coronary heart disease had been brought on by the stress of the crime, and it is being treated by police as manslaughter.
- 999 call from Maureen Whale
In the recording, the pensioner can be heard saying “I’m shaking, I’m sorry”, and then telling the call handler “I can’t talk, I’m sorry” as an ambulance is called.
The operator pleads: “Maureen hang on in there please,” but there is no response.
Her niece Gina said: “Hearing the last phone call made by my aunt is extremely distressing but we hope that by releasing this to the public, someone, somewhere will be moved to come forward with information.
“Our aunt was a fiercely independent woman who should have been safe in the home she had lived in all of her life.
“No-one deserves to die in this way and we urge anyone who can help bring these men to justice to come forward and assist police with their investigation.”
Police are linking the break-in to three other burglaries in the area on the same day. They have released CCTV footage of two men entering her home and their accomplice, who acted as a lookout.
Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, who is leading the investigation, said: “Maureen died for the few pounds that were in her purse. It is so wrong that a woman who was so adventurous travelling the world in her younger days should die in such awful circumstances, for just a few pounds, in her own home.
“Someone will recognise these burglars from CCTV or from a change in their behaviour, and I am appealing to the families and partners of these individuals to help Maureen’s family get the justice they deserve.
“For anyone teetering on whether to make that call, just listen to the distressing 999 call that Maureen made. Just imagine it could have been your mum or nan.
“Burglary is a horrid crime, but what happened to Maureen is utterly wicked.
“In December we found Maureen’s bag in a hedge on the outskirts of Ravenscroft Park and we are continuing to ask anyone who may have seen or been given the items stolen in the other burglaries on the same night to get in touch.”
The first suspect is described as a man who wore a black body warmer over a light-coloured, long-sleeved top and a dark woolly hat. He climbed over the outside gate, opened the gate and then went into the house.
The second man who also went into the house was wearing a long-sleeved top with dark patches and he had his fur-trimmed hood up. He was also wearing dark trousers and light-coloured trainers.
The man who acted as a lookout at the window was wearing a long-sleeved, dark, hooded top or jacket. He had a baseball cap on underneath the hood of his jacket and was also wearing light-coloured jogging bottoms and dark trainers.
Police also want to speak to the driver of a small, four-door hatchback car, possibly a Skoda Fabia, which travelled along Bells Hill towards Lexington Way directly past the suspects just before the break-in.
It is being linked to two more burglaries in the road on the same evening, and another around half-a-mile away on Sampson Avenue at 11.45am on the that day.
A reward of £20,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the intruders.
Anyone with information can call the police incident room on 020 8785 8099, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.