Police were carrying out searches and house-to-house inquiries this afternoon, around a bungalow where an elderly woman was murdered.

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Neighbours in Magazine Lane, Wisbech, told of their shock as police revealed Una Crown had died after “a brutal assault”.

“She was such a nice little thing,” said David Butterfield, who lived next door to Mrs Crown. “We used to see her walking up and down here. We just can’t believe it.

“She used to take parcels around to our house and she had our phone numbers so she could always get in touch if she needed anything.”

Fellow neighbour Maureen Lawrence said: “Una passed by very often to go to the postbox and now and again we would say hello.

“When I heard someone use the word ‘murder’ it gave me goosebumps.

“You never expect to be told something like that. I just assumed she had passed away peacefully.”

Mrs Crown was found dead in her bungalow on Sunday morning. Her death was initially treated as unexplained, but a post mortem carried out at Peterborough City Hospital last night confirmed she had died as a result of an assault.

Det Chief Insp Jon Hutchinson said 50 officers were now working on what was being classed as a major investigation.

A scene of crime tent had been erected against Mrs Crown’s brick-built bungalow, while white-suited forensic officers combed the property.

Officers were also searching drains and wheelie bins in the freezing fog outside.

“Mrs Crown died as a result of a brutal assault in her own home,” said Det Chief Insp Hutchinson. “Our investigation is still at a very early stage and we are trying to build up a picture of the events that lead to her death. “Her murder has obviously devastated her family and I would urge anyone with any information to call police.

“She was last seen on Friday morning so I am keen to hear from anyone who who was in the area of Magazine Lane over the weekend and saw anything suspicious.

“Any information, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, could provide significant in our investigation.”

Mrs Crown lived alone in the bungalow in Magazine Lane, near the Elgood’s Brewery on North Brink.

Her husband Jack Roland (Ron) died on Boxing Day, 2009, at the North Cambs Hospital, Wisbech.

The couple, who had been married for 60 years, did not have children. But Mrs Crown is understood to have had relatives living nearby.

Mrs Crown was last seen by family members on Friday morning. Police say she telephoned a friend that same evening, at 6pm. Her body was found on 10.45am on Sunday.

Detectives want to speak to anyone who was in the area of Magazine Lane over the weekend.

“I’d ask anyone with any information to contact the police - no matter how insignificant it might be,” said Det Chief Insp Hutchinson.

Anyone with information should call the major crime unit on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

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