Burglary theory as pensioner stabbed to death

An elderly mother of two was stabbed to death as she attempted to confront thieves in her home, detectives said today.

Anne Mendel, 85, who was deaf, died following the violent raid on the property in Elmcroft Crescent, Golders Green, north London.

Friends said her husband, 80-year-old Leonard Mendel, returned from a shopping errand to find his wife's body slumped at the bottom of stairs in their modest terraced house.

He called paramedics, but Mrs Mendel was later confirmed dead and a post mortem examination is being carried out.

The couple were part of the local Jewish community and religious leaders are assisting inquiries into the killing, which happened between 9am and 11.30am yesterday.

It had been feared the stabbing may have been an anti-Semitic attack, but police and councillors have confirmed they believe there was no racial motive.

Councillor Aba Dunner, who represents Golders Green, said the couple have a son in Manchester and a daughter in Israel.

"There was concern yesterday that this could have been an anti-Semitic attack, but that's now been totally scotched. All the circumstances point to the fact this was a robbery, so at least the community can be calm," he said.

"Mrs Mendel was very deaf, so perhaps someone knocked on the door and thought no-one was in, got inside and confronted her. The family lived in a very working class street in a terraced house and it is a worry that burglaries here are on the rise.

"People are shocked and helping Mr Mendel, who came home from the shops to find his wife at the bottom of the stairs."

Mr and Mrs Mendel were members of the congregation at the Machzike Hadath Synagogue, in Highfield Road, close to their home.

A police spokeswoman said: "At this stage this murder has all the hallmarks of a residential burglary where the occupant has disturbed the perpetrator, or perpetrators.

"There are no indications or intelligence to suggest that this crime has any racial or religious motivations."

Forensic searches are under way at the family home.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Morris, of Scotland Yard's Specialist Crime Directorate, said: "The murder team are working with local police in conducting analysis of all burglaries that have occurred in the area and the 'modus operandi' of known burglars.

"We are determined to work closely with the local communities, particularly the Jewish community, to bring to justice those responsible for this awful and cowardly murder."

Mr Morris asked anyone who has been a local burglary victim, but failed to report it to police, to contact his inquiry team on 020 8358 0100.

Witnesses can also call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or the Community Security Trust on 020 8457 9964 or 07659 101668.