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London - A retired nurse was battered to death before her home was engulfed in flames – in the 100th case for London’s murder police this year.

Carole Harrison, 73, who had recently boasted she had inherited £1million, was seen befriending a ‘shabbily dressed’ man on a nearby high street shortly before she died.

Police believe her murderer may have set fire to her home to cover their tracks.

Neighbours said the inheritance may have been made up – Mrs Harrison’s health had declined and she had become confused.

Her death marks the 100th murder inquiry in the capital this year as a crime wave sweeps across the UK. If the trend continues there will be more than 135 cases by the end of the year. In 2017, 131 murders were recorded.

Senior officers believe they are turning the tide but a series of high-profile killings and gang attacks have caused concern.

Mrs Harrison was found at her semi-detached home in Teddington, south-west London, on Wednesday morning after firmen were called. The blaze was found to have started in at least three separate locations. A post-mortem examination found injuries consistent with being attacked.

Mrs Harrison, a mother of five and a grandmother, had lived in the house for 30 years. Her husband Terence died in 2005 at the age of 64.

Neighbours of the ‘kind-hearted widow’ said she often left her front door open to invite strangers inside and was seen walking with a man on Hampton Hill High Street on the Tuesday afternoon before she died.

A neighbour said: ‘He was a middle-aged man and the most noticeable thing about him was that he had an untidy mop of black curly hair.

‘He didn’t look like the sort of person she might have been friends with but who knows.’

Neighbour Flo Osmond, 75, added: ‘She had this habit of inviting people in who she didn’t know.’ She added that the fire ‘blew the window right open – it just exploded outwards because of the pressure inside’.

Meanwhile, a separate murder inquiry was underway after a woman died following a fire at a flat in Finsbury Park, north London. Kaltoun Saleh, 43, spent six weeks in a burns unit but died on Tuesday. Four children were also injured.

Abdi Quule, 44, who was found at the scene and treated for burns, was charged with attempted murder. The charge may now be changed. He is due to appear at the Old Bailey next week.