The sickening murder of Norma Bell - what happened to the beloved Hartlepool grandmother?

The horrifying murder of a well-respected and adored Hartlepool woman will feature in a new TV show – this is what happened to the caring and generous Norma Bell.

Monday, 24th June 2019, 9:49 pm
Norma Bell was murdered in her home
Norma Bell was murdered in her home

The new documentary - which will look at the murder of much-loved Norma Bell - will air tonight and explore what her callous killer did after he strangled the caring grandmother to death.

What The Killer Did Next, which will air on the Crime and Investigation channel tonight at 9pm, tells the story of the murdered Hartlepool pensioner.

Who was Norma Bell?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The 79-year-old had lived in her home on Westbourne Road, Hartlepool, for 27 years and had been on her own since the death of her husband, John, in 2010. Mrs Bell had three children and six long-term foster children she called her own. Between 1964 and 2003, the couple had fostered more than 50 children.

Mrs Bell had also helped bring up 12 grandchildren and had hoped she would see her first great-grandchild born.

A family statement released following the sentencing of her killer said: "Norma Bell was our confidant, our friend, our crutch to lean on, our shoulder to cry on and not least she was our mam.”

Adding that she had a heart as big as a lion.

Gareth Dack

Who was Gareth Dack?

Dack had known Mrs Bell for many years having been close friends with one of her foster children when they were growing up.

He had a well-paid job as an asbestos remover earning up to £41,000 a year but he was forced to take time off work for ill health. He had an addiction to crack cocaine and would lend £10 and £20 from friends and took two £100 payday loans in the run up to Mrs Bell’s murder.

In the week before the murder, Dack turned up at Mrs Bell’s door and asked to borrow £20. She felt uneasy and when he persisted she gave him £10.

Gareth Dack was found guilty of murder and arson

What happened to the Hartlepool pensioner?

Mrs Bell’s family visited her on the afternoon of Saturday, April 2.

She explained to them that Dack had been to her address on Easter Sunday and he had asked to borrow £20 for petrol to see his parents in Thirsk who had control over his finances. After he persisted she gave him £10.

She told them 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.

Gareth Dack set fire to Norma Bell's home after murdering her.

At 7.25pm her foster son arrives at Mrs Bell’s home with fish and chips for her. He stayed with Mrs Bell’s for 15-20 minutes before leaving. He was the last person to see her alive – other than her murderer.

That evening, having argued with his partner over drug use, Dack headed to Mrs Bell’s home where he carried out a brutal attack on the caring pensioner – he then left her home with some cash and a TV he sold that night for just £70.

Dack returned to Norma Bell’s home and used her landline phone to call 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.

At around 8.15am on April 3, a witnesses calls the fire birgade after seeing smoke come out of Mrs Bell’s home.

Firefighters entered the house and found Mrs Bell dead with a wire ligature was around her neck.

Two rings of the hob had been left on leaking gas as the fire burned.

When was a murder investigation launched?

Police revealed that the suspicious fire could have been linked to a robbery just days after Mrs Bell was found dead.

It was established that a large flat screen TV was missing and cash had also been taken – although the exact amount is not known.

Fire engine CCTV footage recorded Dack’s car near to the scene.

At the post mortem, the cause of death was established as strangulation.

A forensic examination of the scene was conducted and the defendant was identified as Gareth Dack. On April 6 he was arrested at his home.

Is Dack found guilty of murder?

He appears for trial on January 12, 2017, where he denies the two offences but on February 1, 2017, he is found guilty by a jury of murder and arson.

At sentencing he was told he will spend a minimum of 33 years in prison.

Dack was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Mrs Bell by Mrs Justice Whipple at Teesside Crown Court.

Dack, of Hartlepool, who was 33 at the time, was sentenced to nine years for the arson of Mrs Bell's house to be served concurrently.

What did the police say following the conviction?

In a statement, senior investigating officer chief superintendent Alastair Simpson said: "Gareth Dack preyed on Norma’s caring nature and murdered her for his personal gain before trying to cover his tracks by setting fire to her home."

Adding: "During the criminal justice process Gareth Dack refused to take any responsibility for his actions.

"Thankfully, he will now be held to account for his crime.

"Nothing will bring Norma back to her family, however, I hope that his conviction brings some form of comfort to them."