A man accused of murdering a 79-year-old mum of nine told a jury he knew her and she was ‘a wonderful woman’.
Gareth Dack said he would call in to see Norma Bell on a regular basis having been best friends with one of her children.
“I knew Norma well,” Dack said. “She was a wonderful woman, she loved kids and everybody liked her.
“She was wonderful with kids.”
Dack is alleged to have murdered Mrs Bell and set fire to her house.
Mrs Bell’s body was discovered by firefighters at about 8.30am on Sunday, April 3. last year.
Dack told the jury he had been to Mrs Bell’s house the previous evening to repay £10 he had borrowed from her.
“While we were talking in her kitchen she mentioned a piece of barbed wire had fallen down over her gate in the back yard,” he said.
“I think the kids had been playing football and knocked it.
“I said I would take a look, it wasn’t a job as such, just doing a favour.”
The jury heard earlier Dack’s footprint was found on Mrs Bell’s wheelie bin.
“I climbed onto the bin to reach the wire,” said Dack.
A brand new boxed television was taken from Mrs Bell’s home before it was alight and fingerprints later linked Dack to the television.
He told the jury: “I saw a lad walking past my parent’s house with the television, I’d never seen it before then.
“He wanted £100 for it, I offered him £50, which he took.
“I opened the corner of the box just to check it was a television and not a box of bricks, so I would have touched the corner of it.
“I don’t know the lad’s name who sold it, I wish now I did know his name.”
Dack, 33, of Windermere Road, Hartlepool, denies murder and arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.
He is expected to continue giving evidence this afternoon.