Pensioner who died after break-in ‘strong, determined character who loved life’

The family of a pensioner who died after masked men broke into her home and stole her handbag has paid tribute to “a strong, determined character who loved life”.

Joy Middleditch, 82, was found lying on the floor of her end-of-terrace bungalow in Pakefield, Suffolk, by concerned family members on Saturday.

Ms Middleditch died in hospital on Monday, and police described the attack on her as “really cowardly and callous”.

In a statement, her family said: “Joy was a strong, determined character who loved life and her dog.

“She was a loving person who was sadly taken from us too soon.

“We as a family would like to thank the police and the community for all their help and support.”

Police at the property in Pakefield
Police at the property in Pakefield (Sam Russell/PA)

Suffolk Police have also released a photo of Ms Middleditch, who gave police a description of the intruders before she died, triggering a murder investigation.

She told her relatives, and later police officers, she had heard a noise at the door before two masked men forced their way in and knocked her to the ground.

On Wednesday, the property was still sealed off from the street by blue and white police tape and an officer in a white forensic suit was working inside the home.

A uniformed officer stood outside beside a marked car, and floral tributes had piled up on the lawn, with one card addressed “To the family of Joy” and another saying “From someone who cares X”.

Sarsfield Donohue, Acting Superintendent (East Area) for Suffolk Police, said the only description of the suspects is from Ms Middleditch herself.

He said it is thought she was attacked between the evening of Friday March 24 and the early hours of Saturday March 25.

Officers were called to her home in Grayson Avenue at around 2pm on Saturday after family members found her lying on the floor, Mr Donohue said.

He said she was found “conscious and breathing” but was in a “serious condition” and was taken to the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, Norfolk.

She died there in the early hours of Monday.

Mr Donohue said a post-mortem examination was carried out on Monday “but the exact cause of death is yet to be ascertained so that’s pending further tests”.

“When we initially spoke to her at the scene, prior to her being taken off to hospital, it was reported that she heard a noise at the door,” said the officer.

“At which point when she (Ms Middleditch) went to investigate, what she described as two masked males have forced entry into her home.

“She’s been knocked to the ground.

“At some point during this incident a handbag has been stolen from the premises and then she was left at the premises until she was found by her family the following day.”

He said the handbag that was stolen was recovered “a short distance away in Nelson Road”.

“Missing from that we definitely know was a purse,” he added.

“The family seem to think it was a black and white chequered pattern purse, so that’s what we’re looking for at the moment.

“That is as yet still outstanding.

“As for the finer detail about what was in the purse in terms of cash etc, I don’t have that detail.”

Flowers left outside the scene of the crime
Flowers left outside the scene of the crime (Sam Russell/PA)

He said searches are continuing at Ms Middleditch’s home and in the surrounding streets, including for “any discarded items, particularly looking for the purse”.

“We’re also doing a CCTV trawl of the immediate area and surrounding roads,” said Mr Donohue.

“I would appeal to those members of the public who haven’t already spoken to us, if you do have CCTV coverage or doorbell footage we would like to see it please if it potentially would help the investigation.

“Also any drivers who would have used the London Road area of Pakefield between 6pm on Friday and 7am on Saturday, if you have relevant footage we would be grateful if you could get in contact with us.

“We’re looking for two believed to be male suspects and both wearing face coverings.”

Mr Donohoe said the incident was a “really cowardly and callous attack on what was an elderly and vulnerable female in their own home”.

“That could have been anybody’s mother or grandmother,” he said.

“If you know something, please do the right thing and come forward and speak to us.

“If you know anybody who was involved or has any information please speak to us.

“There’s no justification for what happened to Joy.

“It’s a dreadful, dreadful incident.

“Our thoughts are with her family at this time and they’re being supported by specialist officers.”

Ms Middleditch’s neighbour Bob Johnson said: “It’s very difficult to understand how such a thing should happen or why anybody should go to that extent.

“For whatever they got, it’s just unbelievable, I just can’t understand.”

The 88-year-old retired postman described Ms Middleditch as a “nice lady” who he would speak to while she was out walking her dog, which he said was a “tiny little thing” who she would give a “little fuss”.

He said she used a walker.

Mr Johnson described the area as “very quiet”, adding: “It’s mostly retired people, or semi-retired.”

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the major investigation team by emailing or by calling 101 quoting the reference 37/17537/23.

People can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or at