Norma Bell death: Gareth Dack in 'odd job' DNA claim

Norma Bell Image copyright Family photograph
Image caption Norma Bell and her husband fostered more than 50 children

A small-time cocaine dealer accused of murdering an elderly woman claims his DNA was found in her house because he carried out odd jobs for her.

Gareth Dack denies using a cable to strangle 79-year-old Norma Bell, whose body was found in her burning home in Westbourne Road, Hartlepool, in April.

Teesside Crown Court heard he also denied calling sex chat-lines from her landline as she was dead or dying.

It is also alleged Mr Dack tried to blow up the house after killing her.

The prosecution claims the debt-ridden 33-year-old went to Mrs Bell's home and stole a boxed TV and £700.

The jury has heard his DNA was found on matches found in the kitchen and her underwear, while a footprint matching his Nike trainer was found on her wheelie bin lid.

A mobile telephone belonging to Mrs Bell was found in his parents' garage.

'Wonderful woman'

Mr Dack said his DNA had been left around Mrs Bell's home because he carried out minor jobs for her.

He said he stood on the bin to fix her fence, moved her laundry in the kitchen and used the matches when she asked him to light a fire for her.

Questioned about the phone, the defendant said Mrs Bell lent it to him because his needed charging.

The father-of-four told the court he had grown up in the same street as her.

He said: "I knew her well, she was a wonderful woman. You always saw her in the street, she would make a point to come over to talk to me."

Mr Dack, of Windermere Road, Hartlepool, told the court he had been given £300 of cocaine by a dealer on credit, which he sold from his parents' garage.

He said a man walked past and offered him the TV for £50, which he claimed he bought and then sold to a friend for £60.

Mrs Bell and her late husband, John, had three children of their own and six long-term foster children they treated as their own.

The trial continues.

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