Found dead 22nd July 2012
Pamela Wheeler (76) was found dead on Sunday 22nd July 2012 at her home in Newacres Road, Thamesmead, south east London, after an apparent break-in. There were reports that her wrist and ankles were tied and that she had been tortured.
Ms Wheeler was believed to have kept a large amount of cash at home because she did not trust banks. The attackers are thought to have forced her to reveal the PIN numbers to her bank cards. Her credit cards were found strewn across the floor. Police found her back door open and her safe open.
A post-mortem examination has so far failed to establish a cause of death but further tests are to take place. Detectives are reported to believe she may still have been alive when the raiders fled from her bungalow.
Ms Wheeler, who had recently recovered from breast cancer and reportedly suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, had lived alone following the death of her husband Dennis two years ago. She was a widow and mother of two and formerly worked as a dressmaker.
Her family described her as a kind and charitable widow who had lost touch with her ten siblings following the breakdown of her first marriage. Ms Wheeler’s niece, Velda Holland Jones, said: “She was a lovely lady.” adding “It’s shocking to hear how she died. After she split from her first husband, John, she became estranged from the family and there was no one who was in touch with her any more.”
Ms Wheeler married Dennis in 1997 and later wrote a post on Friends Reunited saying: “I am happily married to Dennis, and living in Thamesmead, south London. I have two children, both married, and three dogs whom I adore.” However, following her husband’s death at the age of 70, Ms Wheeler reportedly became reclusive.
Detectives from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command (HSCC) have undertaken the investigation, led by Detective Chief Inspector Graeme Gwyn. DCI Gwyn said: “This is a shocking and tragic crime, taking away all dignity and respect”. He added that Ms Wheeler had been found at her ground floor flat after a neighbour called police expressing concern that she had not been seen for some time. He said: “We are keeping an open mind at this point in time but one line of inquiry is that this lady’s death took place during a burglary.”
Ms Wheeler was last seen on Thursday 19th July. DCI Gwyn said: “We believe Mrs Wheeler was last seen on Thursday by neighbours. She usually leaves food out in bowls for cats in the area and neighbours noticed the bowls were empty on Friday morning.” Police say Ms Wheeler kept a large amount of money in a safe at her home because she didn’t trust banks. The police confirmed her wrists and ankles were bound.
DCI Gwyn said: “Friends knew her as a lovely lady who fed the cats and donated money to animal charities. It was known that she used to keep money at the premises. It may have been that word got around to someone. She had little trust in the banks.” He added: “It’s a horrific way to die and a cowardly attack on a defenceless elderly lady in her own home.”
Police now believe that Ms Wheeler was attacked at her home at some point between Thursday afternoon, 19th July, and the following morning. Two separate witnesses have described two males acting suspiciously on that Thursday evening. The two males were seen near to a car at the front of Ms Wheeler’s house.
Neighbour Tracey Smith (39) said: “Pam was really friendly with the children and you would always see her taking her dogs for a walk and she was happy. But after her husband passed away she would stand outside at night in her dressing gown on her own. The girl next door phoned the council and told them she needed help. She did have a carer who came round occasionally and she was mobile but she obviously had a few problems. My friend went in and found her. She had her hands tied. Her credit cards were out on the floor.”
Note: This report was drawn from reports in the BBC, the Daily Mail and Murder Maps.