Mother stabbed to death in Muswell Hill was 'living in fear after burglary three years ago'

Barney Davis
Catherine Burke, 55, was found dead by police downstairs at her Muswell Hill home

A mother stabbed to death after being bound and gagged in a “botched robbery” was living in fear about her security after a previous burglary, friends revealed today.

The woman, named locally as Catherine Burke, 55, was found dead by police downstairs at her Muswell Hill home after concerned neighbours raised the alarm.

Friends of the retired civil servant, originally from Galway, Ireland, said she had struggled with living alone since a break-in three years ago.

Her only son Nial, who is in his early 20s, was “beyond distressed”, family friends said.

He had returned to north London from university in Brighton to stay with his grandmother and father nearby as forensic officers searched continued to search the house in Hill Road, Muswell Hill.

A police officer stands at the scene of the killing in Muswell Hill

Neighbour and family friend Lesly Gregory, 62, told the Standard: “I’ve never known anyone like Cathy to be so concerned about home security. She got broken into about three years ago.

“Since then she would never answer the door to someone she didn’t know. She would always look through the curtain.

“If she left the house she would check everything was locked five or six times. She got extra security and was obsessed, so how the hell did they get in?

“We are terrified. If this awful thing could happen to her it could have been any of us, truly.”

Friends of the retired civil servant said she had struggled with living alone since a break-in three years ago

Ms Burke was described as a “much-loved” figure in the community who had raised thousands of pounds for a neighbouring family when their child developed brain cancer.

Her body was discovered when police forced entry in the house just after 7pm on Thursday.

Scotland Yard initially described the case as a “suspicious death” but launched a murder probe after a post-mortem on Saturday gave the provisional cause of death as stab injuries.

Mrs Gregory added: “She wouldn’t hurt a fly, she didn’t keep valuables in a safe, she was just getting by on her pension.

“Her son told me to do everything I can to find her killer but they are still out there.

“We are really scared. My neighbour has boarded up her windows since Cathy was killed.

“I was waiting outside for the police to kick the door down. They spent ages downstairs and came up looking white as a sheet.

“We thought she had died of pneumonia or something. She was private in her own house but would love to come out with us for a party.

“She would give her last fiver to you if you asked.”

A Met spokesman said they were keeping an “open mind” to the motive.

He added: “There have been no arrests. Enquiries continue.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the incident room on 020 8785 8244, or contact the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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