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Widow’s murder and the mystery of two teacups

The brutality of the murder of vulnerable pensioner Annabella Symington sent shockwaves across Northern Ireland.

Mrs Symington was found strangled at her home at Willesden Park in the Stranmillis area of south Belfast on November 1 1989. Part of her cardigan had been stuffed into her mouth.

Police have never found her killer and always believed it may have been somebody who knew her. There were two used cups found in the living room and there were no signs of forced entry or damage to the house.

More than two decades on the case still throws up many more questions than answers.

Yesterday police announced their first significant progress in one of Ulster’s most infamous unsolved murders in years when it was revealed that a 58-year-old man, arrested in Carrickfergus, is being questioned at Antrim Serious Crime Suite.

Neighbours of Ms Symington still remember the quiet, private woman. One told the Belfast Telegraph: “She never did much entertaining, yet there were two cups and saucers on her draining board when she was found dead.”

Her neighbours recalled that she seemed to have few visitors. She had no children, and according to her death notice, was survived by three sisters, Sally, Emily and Florence.

Willesden Park is a on a hill, broken up by Cricklewood Park running between two sections.

Mrs Symington suffered from asthma, so avoided the hill by getting off the bus at Richmond Park.

Some Willesden Park residents bought their houses not long after they were built around 50 years ago. One has lived in her house in Willesden Park for 43 years.

“Mrs Symington did keep herself to herself. I used to go around the houses collecting for charity and she never invited me in. I will also remember that she was very elegant, with her cardigan draped around her shoulders,” she said.

“I do think she had a lot of money, and that her husband had owned a factory in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I did see her on the bus from time to time and talked to her sometimes.

“But she was a very private person. I remember hearing that she had an asthma attack on the bus. Someone attended to her and said they would come round and check on her later on. But she told them not to come.“

A man, who has lived in Willesden Park for 34 years, said: “The man two doors up from her (who has since died) found her, as he had a key to her place.”

Only two of the 50-year-old houses are rented out — including number 38. Its new residents, a family from Slovakia, were oblivious as to the secrets harboured by the house. And, looking at the downstairs of the unmodernised house, you could imagine it still looks much as it did in Mrs Symington’s time. A tiny kitchen looks out on a back garden and is now decorated with a blessing in Slovak.

Belfast Telegraph