Man accused of Hartlepool pensioner’s murder was short of cash and had drug habit, court told

Gareth Dack
Gareth Dack

An alleged murderer of a pensioner was regularly short of cash and had a cocaine habit, a jury has been told.

Gareth Dack owed money to several people around the time that 79-year-old Norma Bell was murdered last year, Teesside Crown Court heard.

He is accused of killing the mother of nine and former foster carer and setting fire to her home in Westbourne Road, Hartlepool, between April 2 and 3.

His partner Charlotte Stokes told the trial that money difficulties and Dack’s drug use led to arguments between them.

Ms Stokes said when times were hard Dack would resort to selling drugs, which she was not happy about and was a source of rows.

The trial previously heard that Dack earned £41,000 a year as an asbestos remover. But Ms Stokes told the court that since going off on the sick in mid-March last year, Dack received just £30 a week.

She and Dack, 33, got together about 12 years ago and had a child together before they separated.

They got back together in 2014.

She said Dack would often borrow sums of £20 or £30 from family and friends.

He took out a £100 loan from a payday company on March 21.

Ms Stokes told the court that shortly before Mrs Bell’s murder, a man who Dack owed £30 to was chasing him for it and sent texts to her mobile phone.

Asked if the man was making any threats, she said: “Well, by the sounds of it he was going to kill him.”

Ms Stokes said she and her two children went with Dack and waited in the car when he visited Mrs Bell’s home once, but he did not say why he went there.

She told the court that she and Dack argued on the morning of Saturday, April 2 about him taking drugs at home.

They argued again at about 8.30pm after he asked her for money, ending with him leaving the house and not returning until the next afternoon.

Prosecutor Christopher Tehrani asked: “Did you have your suspicions what the £10 was for?”

Ms Stokes said: “I believed it was for drugs.”

The court heard she called Dack’s mobile phone numerous times and sent him messages on Facebook during the night but he did not reply until the next morning.

Dack, of Windermere Road, Hartlepool, denies murder and arson.

The case continues.