Police have released the saddening timeline of events which led to them bringing Gareth Dack to justice:
Norma Bell, was a 79 year old woman who lived alone at her home in Westbourne Road, Hartlepool.
She was a mother of nine and fostered around 50 children.
Saturdays are described as the day of the week that family members dropped in to visit Norma.
Saturday April 2 2016 - Afternoon
Norma was visited in the afternoon by her family. The family describes that Norma seemed agitated.
Norma explained to them that Dack had been to her address on Easter Sunday and he had asked to borrow £20.
Dack arrived in a silver car, he asked for £20, stating his money went into his parent’s bank account and they were in Thirsk and he wanted to go and see them.
Norma told Gareth to go ask a neighbour over the road. Dack replied that he had already asked him and he had no money. Norma felt pressured by Dack and handed over £10.
Dack returned on the Bank Holiday Monday, informed her he didn’t go to Thirsk as his car broke down, and he didn’t have the money to re pay her.
The family were concerned that Dack was attending Norma’s address asking for money.
A telephone call was made to another of Norma’s foster sons who attended the house. He was an old school friend of Dack.
Later in the afternoon the family left Norma’s.
The foster son re-attends Norma’s address with fish and chips for her. He did not have a key so rang the landline number from his mobile to get into the house. The foster son stayed with Norma for 15-20 minutes before leaving.
A female witness states that Dack and her got a taxi home from the Wacky Warehouse, Hartlepool, to the witnesses’ address. The witness states that Dack left an address after a verbal altercation between them.
Dack left on foot with his phone and car keys.
A witness sighted a person carrying a large boxed TV, walking along Blakelock Road. The witness was driving in the same direction of the person that was walking.
A witness states that at around 10pm he was at his home address in Hartlepool, with a friend (witness). At this time Dack attended the address.
The witness answered the door, Dack had a sealed, boxed television set which he offered for sale. Dack was said to be sweating heavily. Dack said he had got the TV on a friends’ credit card. Dack said that he had walked from his parent’s house to the witnesses house.
Dack first asked for £100 but then agreed a lower price of £60 for the TV.
Dack left the address after the transaction. (It was established on 7th April 2016 that this TV was stolen from Norma’s house).
Dack returned to the same witnesses address and he took drugs. After 15 minutes Dack left, collecting his car and he is then believed to have driven back to Westbourne Road.
April 2 into April 3
Norma Bells’ landline phone was used to phone adult sex chat lines on a number of separate occasions during the night between 11.13pm on 2nd April and 5.25am on 3rd April. The calls are made at regular intervals with breaks.
This suggests that Dack was in the address for a considerable period of time prior to the fire being started.
Monday April 3 - 8.15am
A witness states he was in Westbourne Road when he heard a window crack, looked across the road and noticed smoke coming out from Norma Bell’s house.
The witness called the fire brigade.
On arrival, the fire brigade forced entry to the front door. Fire fighters entered the house and removed Norma. It was established that Norma was dead. A wire ligature was around Norma’s neck.
The fire brigade discovered two seats of fire. One around a sofa in the ground floor room where Norma was located. The second in the first floor bedroom used by Norma.
Used matches were found in the kitchen of the address and two of the knobs on the gas hob in the kitchen were turned on. These were unlit, which led to a build-up of gas in the kitchen.
A police investigation commences…
Norma’s house has rooms on three floors. Many of these rooms are soot damaged but the damage caused by the fire was largely restricted to the two rooms. There is considerable disorder in the address. Norma’s bedroom had drawers pulled out, papers and receipts spread in a disorderly fashion around the room.
The ground floor back room has suffered the greatest fire damage.
The further ground floor room was used as a storage room and contained a number of items of boxed furniture being stored for a family member. This included a boxed large flat screen TV. It was established that this TV was missing.
Cash was also stolen from the house. The amount has not been established.
Fire engine CCTV footage recorded Dack’s car near to the scene.
At the post mortem, the cause of death was established as strangulation. Norma was wearing day time clothing at the time, her tights and knickers had been cut to her pubic area. There was no evidence that Norma had been sexually assaulted.
A forensic examination of the scene was conducted.
The defendant was identified as Gareth Dack, date of birth 01/06/1983.
April 6 - 1.40am
Dack was arrested at his home address.
After hearing a public appeal on the April 7 2016 for the missing TV and box, a witness reported that he had bought the TV from Dack, after he attended his home address at 10pm on April 2 2016.
£405 in cash was recovered from the glove box of Dack’s Silver VW Bora vehicle.
A mobile phone, identified as missing from Norma’s house, was found in the garage of Dack’s parent’s house.
April 8 - 5:52pm
Dack was charged with murder.
Forensic examination results
A number of positive hits for Dack have been established. These include:
In the kitchen - inside rear door handle which led to the rear yard, used matches, cooker knob, mobile phones.
Strong support that is was Gareth Dack making the phone calls to the chatlines from Norma’s address.
Norma’s bedroom - handbag, briefcase clasp.
Norma Bell – ligature, waist band of underwear
A footprint, matched to Dack’s training shoes, was found on a waist bin lid in the rear yard next to the exit gate.