Police returning a handbag which belonged to a 77-year-old woman found her murdered in her home.
Officers arrived at Judith Richardson's house in Hexham, Northumberland, on Friday to return a handbag found 25 miles away in Newcastle.
They found her dead in the hallway of her stone-built terraced house in sought-after St Wilfrid's Road on the edge of the town centre.
A post-mortem has shown she died from severe head injuries. A murder investigation is under way, with police examining CCTV footage.
Speaking outside Hexham police station yesterday, Superintendent Frank Gallop said: "I think the person responsible has to search their conscience. They have to think carefully about what they have done and the consequences of their actions.
"The death of a 77-year-old woman has had a devastating impact not only on the community but on her family. I would ask them to come forward and hand themselves in."
Hexham, a market town, is rarely troubled by serious violent crime.
Supt Gallop said there was nothing to suggest that anyone else is at risk because of the murder.