Burglar blamed for elderly pair's death

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AN ELDERLY war veteran and his sister, both in their seventies, died from heart attacks after a burglary at their east London home went wrong, Scotland Yard said last night, writes Terry Kirby.

Detectives said they were treating the deaths of William Bryan, 71, and Ann Castle, 74, whose bodies were discovered at their home in Bethnal Green on Monday night, as murder and believe a burglar may have been responsible.

According to police, the couple were found sitting side by side in chairs; Mr Bryan's hands and feet had been bound. A post-mortem examination showed Mr Bryan died from suffocation, possibly due to a hand being placed across his mouth, and ischaemic heart disease. His sister had died from the same disease alone. The condition is a contributory factor to heart failure.

The alarm was raised by a neighbour in the block of flats who became suspicious after receiving no reply to a knock on the front door, despite seeing a door open and lights on. The couple had last been seen on Sunday.

Detective Superintendent Keith Fletcher, who is leading the murder inquiry, said last night that although the flat was in disarray, there were no signs of a forced entry, suggesting that the burglar had been let in, perhaps on a pretext.

There have been several recent break-ins in the block of flats and Mrs Castle was said by neighbours to have recently fought off an intruder.

Mr Bryan had lived with his sister in the flat since being invalided out of the army. Mrs Castle's husband died in 1987. Although neither were said to be frail, Mrs Castle was believed to have suffered heart problems in recent years.