The family of a former headteacher who died after distraction burglars targeted her home made a passionate plea today for her killers to give themselves up.
Hester Mottershead, aged 90, died in hospital the day after three conmen posing as water board officials searched her house in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton.
Police have a team of detectives hunting those who were responsible for carrying out the raid at the home in Saxonfield.
Today, family members spoke exclusively to the Express & Star about the death of Miss Mottershead, who was former head of Wolverhampton Girls High and was affectionately known by family and friends as Stella.
One family member said he had been devastated by death and felt “numb” when he learned what had happened.
And he also urged the conmen who targeted Miss Mottershead’s home to come forward.
“I’d ask them to hand themselves in and to not have this on their conscience. They’ve destroyed a family,” he said.
“I think she died of fright. You could go in to see her and if she wasn’t expecting it she would jump. She wouldn’t have been expecting this to happen to her.
“It’s been going on for three months but it really hasn’t hit me.”
Miss Mottershead died the day after she suffered a suspected stroke after she had let the men into her home on August 17.
She collapsed minutes after the distraction burglary and was rushed to hospital. The day she died, police launched a murder inquiry.
Her family said they felt “numb” when they heard about the burglary and recall seeing Miss Mottershead at New Cross Hospital the day before she died, and then receiving a call from the hospital the following day.
“The hospital rang in the morning and said she had taken a turn for the worse. We were expecting it I think,” one relative said. “We didn’t want her to die alone so we went straight to the hospital but when we got there she had already gone. I felt numb.”
Lancashire-born Miss Mottershead attended The Park School girls’ grammar in Preston before going onto St Anne’s College at Oxford Univerisity to study French and German. After graduating, she trained to be a teacher – and took her first headteacher position at Bilston Girls High School at the age of 35.
When the school was transformed into a sixth form college in 1976, she secured a lecturing and research job at the University of Birmingham – but governors at Wolverhampton Girls’ High School – aware of her excellent reputation – urged her to take on the newly vacant position as headmistress there, which she did soon after.
During her seven-year stint at the school, before retiring in April 1983, she fought to save the school as the Labour-run council tried repeatedly to withdraw funding and close it down.
The battle was finally resolved in November 1985, when the government ruled it should stay open. Miss Mottershead moved into Saxonfield around a decade ago with friend Brenda Thompson, a former deputy headteacher at Bilston Girls High School, who died three years ago. One of Miss Mottershead’s relatives, who used to carry out shopping for the pensioner every Saturday, said: “Stella loved dogs. She and Brenda had one or two Corgis and then a West Highland Terrier.
“She was a loving person. The first thing she used to say to me when I visited her was ‘hello love, how are you?’. She had a firm but fair outlook. She was extremely dedicated. She was interested in photography and she used to knit a lot, all for charity.”
Miss Mottershead’s funeral will take place at St Andrew’s Church in Quatt, Shropshire, at 12pm on December 8.
By Shaun Jepson