Murdered widow Una Crown was stabbed several times and set on fire in a brutal attack at her home, police revealed today.

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No motive for attack

Why? That was the question today. Why would anyone so brutally assault a defenceless 86-year-old pensioner in her own home.

Police now know Una Crown’s killer struck some time between Saturday night – when she called a friend – and Sunday morning when her body was discovered in her neat bungalow on the outskirts of Wisbech.

Det Chief Insp Jon Hutchinson, the officer leading the murder hunt, said it was possible she had been killed after a suspect broke into the house. He added there was no evidence of a sexual assault and the property had not been ransacked.

Police are trying to establish whether entry to Mrs Crown’s home was forced. At present, there is no obvious motive for the vicious attack. Neighbours told of their shock last night.

“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 round to our house and she had our phone numbers so she could get in touch if she needed anything.”

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. I just assumed she had passed away peacefully.”

The 86-year-old was found dead in her bungalow in Magazine Lane, Wisbech, at 10.45am on Sunday - but details of the horrific attack have only been released this afternoon.

Her death had originally been treated as unexplained but a post-mortem revealed she died as a result of stab wounds to her neck and chest.

Today police revealed the pensioner’s clothing had also been set alight, but the fire did not spread to the rest of the house.

Det Chief Insp Jon Hutchinson said: “This was a horrific murder of a defenceless elderly woman in her own home.

“She was stabbed several times then set on fire in an apparent attempt by her killer to hide her injuries and destroy evidence.

“The fire damage meant it was difficult to initially establish the cause of Mrs Crown’s death. However the stab wounds were revealed during the post-mortem on Tuesday evening.

“I would appeal to anyone who thinks they may know who is responsible for this brutal murder. “Did a friend or loved one come home on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon smelling of smoke?

“I would urge you to do the right thing and call police to ensure the killer is caught and brought to justice.”

Mrs Crown had last been seen alive on Friday, but she spoke to a friend on the telephone at about 5pm on Saturday.

The bungalow was cordoned off this week as forensic officers combed the property. Detectives searched drains, wheelie bins and hedges in the freezing fog outside and house-to-house enquiries are continuing.

Mrs Crown’s husband, Jack Roland Crown, who was known as Ron or Ral, died on Boxing Day, 2009, at the North Cambs Hospital, Wisbech. The couple had been married for 60 years.

Fifty detectives are involved in the murder hunt and today Det Chief Insp Hutchinson said police would use “every tactic available” to bring the killer to justice.

He said: “We know Mrs Crown was last seen by her family at 11am on Friday, and we believe she was spoken to by a friend on the telephone on Saturday.

“So we have narrowed her time of death down, to between 6pm on Saturday and 10.45am on Sunday morning, when she was discovered by family members when they came to check on her.

“Understandably the family is traumatised and is receiving support from specialist police officers.

“The forensic investigation is ongoing and a post mortem on Tuesday at Peterborough City Hospital identified that she was murdered and this was the result of a brutal assault.

“We have launched a major investigation with up to 50 detectives involved from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, working closely alongside local officers from the Safer Neighbourhood Team.

“We are doing a number of further searches and checks at the property to find out if there was a break-in or forced entry, that is one line of investigation we are looking at.

“It is early days and we are piecing together the jigsaw to discover what happened. A cordon remains around the house and officers will be visible conducting inquiries and providing reassurance to the local community.”

Anyone with any information should call the Major Crime Unit on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

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