Police hunt killer of widow mugged for a piece of fish

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The Independent Online

A murder inquiry began yesterday after a 77-year-old woman died from injuries inflicted when she was mugged for a £2 piece of fried fish.

Marie Watson, who was partially sighted and had hearing difficulties, was thrown to the ground and dragged along the pavement during the assault in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Mrs Watson, who was returning home from a fish and chip shop with her supper, suffered facial injuries, broken ribs, a fractured arm and bruising. The robber also stole her handbag, which contained items worth less than £10.

The widow was treated in hospital after the attack on 4 April and was released into the care of a relative. But she was taken back to hospital late on Saturday when her condition deteriorated. She died that night from complications.

Detective Superintendent Derek Storey, the officer leading the inquiry, appealed for help in tracking down the mugger. "This was an appalling, unprovoked attack on a defenceless old lady who was a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother committed in daylight in a heavily populated area," he said.

Mandy Devlin, 28, of Gills Fish and Chip Shop in Heaton, who served Mrs Watson before she died, said: "She chatted as she always does, she asked how I was and how my son was. She only wanted a fish but she was in here about five minutes. She was a really friendly lady and it's not sunk in yet.

"She just bought a fish by itself because she couldn't manage the chips as well. Her eyesight was not very good so whoever did this is just a total coward."

Mrs Watson was about 10 metres from her front door when she was attacked. She was left on the ground and was taken to Newcastle General Hospital after a neighbour in Spencer Street heard her cry for help.

Det Supt Storey described Mrs Watson as a "sprightly old lady who despite her age was fit and well before the savage attack". Her attacker was described as about 5ft 6in tall, the same height as Mrs Watson, in his early to mid-teens and wearing fawn or beige-coloured trousers.

Det Supt Storey encouraged the youth to give himself up and called for anyone who knew anything or anyone associated with the attack to get in touch.

"The family are totally devastated," he said. "They are a very respectable, loving family and we can only imagine the trauma this has caused them."

Mrs Watson's daughter, Beth Gallagher, speaking last week, said: "We don't want anyone else to go through the agony we have been through and just want the scum who did this to be caught.

"She was carrying her money in her pocket and all this person got was her new shopping bag and the fish she had bought. All this damage was caused for absolutely nothing."

Mrs Watson's husband, William, a British Rail signalman for 40 years, died in 1976, since when she had been alone.