Belfast Telegraph

Police treating death of east Belfast mother-of-five as 'suspicious'

By Deborah McAleese

Police are investigating if the sudden death of a Belfast mother-of-five is related to injuries sustained during a violent attack last month.

Deborah Hunter (50) was found dead in her home at Finmore Court, off the Newtownards Road, on Thursday, November 6.

Yesterday the PSNI announced that her death was being treated as suspicious.

Around two weeks before her death, Ms Hunter contacted police to say that she had been assaulted by a number of people.

A photograph of the east Belfast woman taken shortly after the alleged attack shows a number of facial injuries.

It is understood that police have spoken to a number of people who were named by Ms Hunter as her attackers.

At least one of the alleged attackers, a woman, knew Ms Hunter personally and would have socialised with her on occasion, according to a number of locals.

"She was definitely attacked a few weeks before she died. Nobody imagined that her death could have been connected to that so it has come as a bit of a shock now that it could be related," one local man said.

He added: "It isn't the safest of areas in there so to hear she was attacked isn't a big surprise."

Officers investigating Ms Hunter's death said they are very keen to speak to anyone who had spoken to or had seen her between October 7 and November 6.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Dickson said: "Deborah Hunter was well known in the lower Newtownards Road area and we are issuing a photo of her which was taken shortly after she had complained to police that she'd been assaulted by a number of people."

The officer added: "In order for police to be able to determine whether or not her death was suspicious, we need to speak to anyone who saw Deborah or spoke to her between 7 October and 6 November when she was found dead in her home."

Jim Rodgers, UUP councillor for the area, said that speculation over how Ms Hunter died was difficult for her family.

"Not only does this lady's family have to come to terms with her untimely death but now there is uncertainty over what caused her death. It is absolutely horrendous to think she may have died from injuries sustained some time before," the DUP man said.

"I hope police will carry out a full investigation into the alleged attack prior to her death, whether or not they are connected. The police inquiries are still at a very early stage."

It is understood that officers are awaiting the results of medical tests to try and determine the cause of death before deciding whether or not charges will be brought in connection with Ms Hunter's death.

An investigation into her complaints of assault before her death is still ongoing, however no charges have been brought to date. Anyone with information about Ms Hunter's death has been asked to contact detectives at Ladas Drive on the non-emergency 101 number.

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