Soon afterwards, the woman's husband was discovered by police tied up at their home.
The body of Carol Wardell, 38, was discovered by a man on his way to work in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, shortly before 9am yesterday. A post-mortem examination later showed that she had died from asphyxiation.
About 90 minutes later, police were alerted by staff at the Woolwich Building Society in Abbey Street, Nuneaton, who said they were unable to get into the premises and Mrs Wardell had not turned up for work.
When police broke in they found evidence of a considerable disturbance.
Gordon Wardell was found at the couple's home in Meriden. He had been bound and gagged and was last night detained in hospital for observation.
Detective Superintendent Tony Bayliss said: 'A considerable amount of money was found to be missing from the strongroom along with two building society chequebooks each containing 200 cheques.'
A Woolwich spokesman said thieves took about pounds 15,000 in addition to the chequebooks.