The first pictures have been released of church leader and grandmother Nelly Akomah, who was found by paramedics with fatal injuries at the bottom of the stairs in her home in Thornton Heath yesterday (Weds).
Detectives have launched a murder investigation after the 76-year-old was found at 10.40 am at her house on Ladbrook Road near Grangewood Park and are working on the possibility that there was a burglary at the victim’s home.
Her family have been informed and are being supported by specially trained officers.
Detective Chief Inspector Kate Blackburn, said: “First and foremost, my thoughts are with Nelly’s family and friends. Nelly was active in her church, and her loss will be keenly felt by many people.
“I don’t underestimate the level of concern in the local community following this shocking incident, and there are various suggestions circulating about what may have happened.
“At this stage, we are investigating the possibility that there was a burglary at Nelly’s address. I must
stress that our investigation is in its very early stages, and we are working to establish what exactly has happened.”
A post-mortem examination was held today [Thursday, the 22 June.]
DCI Blackburn added: “I want to reiterate my appeal to the wider public. We need to know what led to Nelly’s sad death. If you haven’t already spoken to officers and you have information, footage or anything that could help our investigation, please do so without delay.
“Were you in the area of Ladbrook Road, Croydon, during the evening of the 20 June between 10 pm and midnight? Do you have any dashcam footage? Did you see anyone else in the area or any activity that you thought may be out of the ordinary? If you can help, we need to hear from you.”
Neighbours claimed that her CCTV system had been ‘sabotaged’ the night before she died. A large police cordon is in place around the £450,000 terraced house close to Crystal Palace Football Club’s Selhurst Park ground.
The president of Ms Akomah’s Nigeria Methodist Mission UK, Dame Susan Solanke, paid tribute to her:
‘Sister Nelly, only last week we were all at a weekend retreat, full of life.
‘You were such a valuable member of the mission who will be sorely missed. My heart is broken with this cruel, mindless and senseless attack.
‘I pray God brings the culprits to book as soon as possible.’
Officers will remain in the area; anyone with concerns is advised to speak with them.
There have been no arrests, and enquiries continue.
Chief Superintendent Andy Brittain, responsible for policing in Croydon, said: “This is an incredibly heart-breaking incident, and my thoughts are with Nelly’s family and friends. For the wider community, I know you will be concerned, feeling uneasy and have a lot of questions about what happened.
“I want to reassure Nelly’s family and the community that the investigation team are working diligently to
establish the facts. People in the local area will see an increased police presence over the coming days, and I would encourage anyone to come forward and speak to them to share information or to raise any concerns they may have.
“I am conscious that there has been speculation on social media and possibly shared in the local community. I appreciate that such speculation is an inevitable part of a police investigation of this nature.
“While I am in no doubt that many people are acting in good faith, I want to ask people to think of Nelly’s family, who may read what is posted online. Some of the details posted will no doubt add to what is already an incredibly distressing time for them. I would also remind people that detectives are still working to gather information about what exactly has happened.”
Ladbrook Road, which is also near Whitehorse Meadow and Crystal Palace Football Club, is in the Thornton Heath ward but has a SE25 postcode.
One neighbour told The Evening Standard: ‘She was found at the bottom of stairs, we are told. The belief is that it was an intruder may be there to steal her stuff, and she interrupted them.
‘We are heartbroken she was our neighbour for 20 years. A lovely churchgoing woman. She was always very well dressed.
‘She was not doddery, she was very strong and always out doing her own shopping. She certainly wouldn’t have just fallen down the stairs. Just a smart, smiley, lady.’
Anyone with information is asked to call police via 101 quoting reference CAD 2540/21 Jun.