EADT offers reward to catch killers

By James Hore and Roddy AshworthTHE East Anglian Daily Times is offering today a £1,000 reward for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for the death of pensioner Thelma Avis.

By James Hore and Roddy Ashworth

THE East Anglian Daily Times is offering today a £1,000 reward for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for the death of pensioner Thelma Avis.

Just over a week ago 90-year-old Mrs Avis suffered a fatal heart attack less than four hours after she was the victim of two conmen who called at her home in Barn Hall Avenue, Colchester, and stole £1,000.

Detectives believe the trauma caused to Mrs Avis after discovering she had been duped by the bogus callers triggered her death and have launched a murder inquiry.

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Last night, one week on from the death of Mrs Avis, police stopped motorists at either end of Barn Hall Avenue between 4pm and 6pm, hoping they might have some information vital to their investigation.

EADT Essex news editor, Sharon Asplin, said Mrs Avis's death had shocked the community.

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“This despicable crime should not be tolerated and without the capture of those responsible, there is a very real possibility that it could happen again,” she added.

“Nobody should have to go through the experience Mrs Avis suffered. We cannot imagine what her sons must be feeling now and I hope our reward can lead to vital information in the hunt for these conmen.

“As a newspaper, we are fully aware of the extent of this crime in Essex, some of which goes unreported, and we would urge anyone with any information, no matter how insignificant they think it could be, to contact the police or Crimestoppers.”

Essex Police said the £1,000 reward offered by the East Anglian Daily Times could help capture the two conmen.

A spokeswoman added: “We welcome any initiative that will help find who these callous people. Somebody out there must know who they are.”

The death of Mrs Avis led the East Anglian Daily Times to relaunch its successful Safe In Your Home campaign in a fresh effort to crack down on the bogus callers.

Mrs Avis' grieving sons John and Neil have backed the EADT campaign and urged people not be afraid to call 999 if they were faced with an unwanted visitor to their home.

The pensioner, who suffered from heart disease and walked with a frame, answered her door at about 5.30pm on July 4 to a bogus gasman who claimed to be investigating a leak.

He went inside and kept her talking for 25 minutes until she became suspicious and called her son. Police believe an accomplice slipped into the house and stole £1,000 while Mrs Avis was distracted.

Mrs Avis gave detailed information to police at about 8.30pm about the theft, but she died shortly afterwards.

The man who knocked on Mrs Avis's door, claiming to be from the gas board, is described as white, between 5ft 7in and 5ft 11in tall and of slim to medium build.

He spoke quickly with a Colchester accent, had short, straight, dark-brown hair, a sallow complexion, was clean-shaven and was wearing a navy-blue, long-sleeved top, blue jeans and grey trainers.

His accomplice is described as white, aged between 22 and 24, 5ft tall and of small build. He spoke with an Irish accent and has short, dishevelled hair and a tanned complexion.

Anyone with information about the incident should contact Essex Police on 01277 262220 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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