Witham: Family’s tribute to man, 80, who died hours after burglary
A FAMILY has paid tribute to an 80-year-old man who died just hours after becoming the victim of a burglary.
Retired mechanic Richard Stevens of Cressing Road, Witham, was described as a true gentleman who was keen on gardening and remained active right up to his death.
His body was discovered on the bathroom floor of the home where he lived alone by his step-grandsons on Friday morning – about 15 hours after he had come face to face with two thieves who stole �300 from him.
Although Mr Stevens had no children of his own he had a close relationship with his step family through his wife who died seven years ago.
Kevin Brown, a step-grandson who lives two doors away from Mr Stevens, said: “He’ll certainly be missed around here, it’s quite a close community. It was a bit of an old boys club and he loved to sit in the garden in the summer months and chat to his neighbours.
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“For an 80-year-old he was very active and gardening was his biggest hobby. He’d dig the whole garden and plant the vegetables himself and he also used to help out up at Olivers Nurseries on Witham Road.”
Mr Brown and his cousin, Mark Spenner, realised something was wrong when Mr Stevens did not turn up to the Wetherspoon’s pub where they had arranged to meet on Friday morning.
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After failing to contact him by phone or by shouting through his letterbox they entered his house using a spare key and found his body slumped against the downstairs toilet.
A post mortem has revealed that Mr Stevens died of natural causes, but Mr Brown believes the two burglars who raided his home on Thursday evening could be responsible for his death.
“My personal feeling is that there is a connection between the two incidents,” he said. “You just don’t know how the shock of being burgled is going to affect an elderly person.”
On Thursday evening a man knocked on Mr Stevens’ front door and asked if he could search his back garden for a missing dog. While the victim was distracted a second man entered the house and searched the upstairs rooms.
A few minutes later both men spoke to the victim and asked for some change. When Mr Stevens produced his wallet it was stolen and the men ran off along Cressing Road, towards Morrisons supermarket.
Detectives are no longer treating the death as suspicious but continue to investigate the burglary.
Both of the burglars were described as white, about 5ft 9ins tall, and aged in their 30s. One was a slim build with short dark hair and was wearing a dark jacket with a collar. The other was wearing a light red or pink baseball cap.
The investigation is now being led by DI Richard Thomas and anyone with information should contact his team at Chelmsford police station on 0300 333 4444.
DI Thomas said: “This is a despicable crime by two men on a vulnerable 80-year-old man.”