United Kingdom

Murder probe is launched after great-grandmother, 83, vanished

Police have launched a murder inquiry following the disappearance of an 83-year-old frail great-grandmother who had taken in a former homeless man as a lodger.

Fears are growing for Patricia Holland, of Gorleston-on-Sea, Norfolk, who got around with the help of a walking frame and was described as a 'lovely, little old lady'.

Local residents claimed that police were called to a disturbance at her home on Saturday after her lodger allegedly angrily accused her of burning his spaghetti.

Mrs Holland is said to have taken temporary refuge in a neighbour's house and only returned home later in the evening after police got her lodger to leave.

Detectives revealed today that a man in his 40s was being questioned having been arrested on suspicion of her murder, even though her body has not been found. 

Fears are growing for Patricia Holland, 83, of Gorleston-on-Sea, Norfolk, who is missing

Neighbours said that Mrs Holland, a widowed mother-of-four, had taken in the homeless man because she felt sorry for him and wanted to keep him off the streets.

But they revealed that police were regularly called to bust-ups between the pair at her detached house. Friends are said to have urged Mrs Holland to throw out her lodger, but she refused and did not want police to take any action against him.

She was last seen near her home at 9.20pm on Saturday and was reported missing by her relatives at 12.15pm after they were unable to contact her and 'became concerned about her whereabouts'.

Forensic officers were today hunting for evidence inside her house while police teams searched undergrowth near her home.

Coastguards and firefighters have also been involved in the search for the pensioner who had lived in her home for nearly 30 years.

A Norfolk Police spokesman said: 'Early enquiries lead detectives to believe that this was an isolated incident and as such, there is not any wider threat to the local community. There is a police seal in place at the property while enquiries continue.'

Mrs Holland, whose husband George died in 1994, is said to be of a slight build and around 5ft 7in tall, but she walks slightly bent over so may appear shorter. She also had a pale complexion and grey and brown shoulder-length hair.

The police spokesman described her as vulnerable, and added: 'She has mobility problems and usually walks with a walking frame.'

Forensic officers were today hunting for evidence inside her house in Gorleston-on-Sea

One neighbour said police with torches appeared to be trying to raise the occupants of Mrs Holland's home at around 10pm on Sunday.

Residents also told of being woken at 4.30am on Monday by officers asking if they had seen anything, and searching their gardens

Tracy Bessey, 60, who lives opposite, added: 'She was a lovely sweet little old lady and was quite vibrant for her age. She could only walk a few steps and supported herself with a frame when she was out and about.

'But she used to get herself to the shops, and would catch a bus or a taxi home. She would always wave to everyone at her gate. She took in this homeless guy who was a bit weird. He would walk down the road in his dressing gown reading a book.

'There were often arguments with him and the police would be called to deal with it every couple of weeks or so. 

'He was around her house for as long as we have been here, which is around six years. He often seemed drunk, but I never had any problem with him.'

Mrs Bessey, a passenger assistant for special needs children, said: 'There were  lot of police here at around 1pm on Sunday and I didn't think any more of it.

'Then we came home later on Sunday night and they were banging on the door of her home and shining lights through the windows.'

Mrs Bessey said the lodger had written a letter to her and her husband, praising them for flying an England flag.

Coastguards and firefighters have also been involved in the search for the pensioner who had lived in her home in Gorleston-on-Sea for nearly 30 years

The handwritten letter said: 'I love your flag. Keep the right flags flying, All the best.'

Another neighbour who asked not to be named, said: 'She was a lovely lady. I used to see her with her trolley in the high street every day. I think the police are so suspicious because her trolley is still in the house and she never went out without it.'

Mrs Holland was known as a keen gardener who collected cuttings from neighbours and liked to give away rhubarb which she grew. She also attended local church social clubs.

Full time carer Leon Simmons, 34, said he had seen police dogs in the house, and a police drone flying overhead.

He said: 'I just feel awful that she could be terrified somewhere and afraid to come home. Her lodger was very strange. He would walk around in a cape or his dressing gown, often in his slippers and reading a book come rain or shine.

'I heard that he had kicked off about her burning his spaghetti on Saturday night and she had to get away from him at a neighbour's house. The police made him leave the house, so she could go home again.'

Emma Halls, who lives nearby, said she had counted ten police vehicles in the street yesterday. She said local residents 'hoped for the best, but feared the worst' due to the amount of police 'flooding the area.'

Another neighbour said she had last seen Mrs Holland on Thursday sitting outside the Feathers pub in Gorleston. She said she had talked to them about getting her second Covid jab and was looking forward to a planned trip to a cafe.

Any witnesses, or anyone with information is asked to email Norfolk Police at [email protected] or call 101, quoting reference 36/53382/21.  Alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or here 

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