Police continuing to probe the scene of the murder of Hartlepool woman Norma Bell

Norma Bell murder investigation.
Norma Bell murder investigation.

Murder police are continuing to investigate at the home of a 79-year-old woman more than a month after her death.

Norma Bell, a former foster mother, was found dead inside her home in Westbourne Road, Hartlepool, on Sunday, April 3.

A murder probe has been launched following the death of Norma Bell.

A murder probe has been launched following the death of Norma Bell.

Police believe she had been killed before a fire started in her home.

A court hearing yesterday was told that due to the fire damage police have still not concluded their investigations.

Gareth Dack, 32, who is accused of Mrs Bell’s murder, appeared at Teesside Crown Court via a live videolink to Holme House Prison in Stockton.

He was charged with murder last month around a week after Mrs Bell’s body was found at the property.

Prosecuting barrister Christopher Tehrani QC said: “Mr Dack was arrested in early April on a charge of murder the victim being an elderly lady called Norma Bell and he was charged on April 8 with that offence.”

The court heard the police investigation is still continuing and various types of evidence is being collected and some yet to be analysed.

Mr Tehrani said potential DNA, fingerprint, CCTV and mobile phone evidence is still being collected.

He added: “Because of the fire damage to the house police have yet to fully complete a thorough examination of the deceased female’s home.

“Clothing and other items found in the deceased’s home are in the process of being submitted for scientific examination.

“The defendant’s telephone is to be examined and cell site analysis regarding the movements of that phone are to be undertaken.

“CCTV video film evidence is being obtained and examined and a report prepared.”

Dack, of Windermere Road, Hartlepool, did not enter any plea yesterday but a trial could take place sometime in August.

A further hearing when he will appear in court in person to answer to the charge is expected to be held in July.

The Recorder of Middlesbrough, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC, said: “You will next be required at this court in the first or second week of July. In the meantime you are remanded in custody.”

Mrs Bell, a mother of three who had fostered more than 50 children, had lived in the road for 20 years.

In a statement, her family previously said she was a loving and caring person who lived for her family.