An elderly woman who died at a house in the Auckland suburb of Avondale may have had a heart attack after thieves broke into her property, her grieving family believe.
Police confirmed they were investigating a break-in at the house but couldn't say whether it was linked to the woman's death.
"We are carrying out a thorough investigation and will know more once a post-mortem [examination] has been carried out in the following days," Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Franich said.
The Herald understands a male family member entered the St Georges Rd house just before 4pm yesterday to find the woman lying dead on the floor, the house in disarray and belongings strewn on the ground.
It's understood the woman's body was still inside the house last night. Police were treating the home as a crime scene. Two police officers guarded the front and rear entrances to the cordoned property.
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"Police believe there had been a burglary at the address, however we are still treating the death as unexplained," Franich said.
"We have no evidence at this point to link the burglary and death of this woman, however we are keeping an open mind as our investigation progresses."
A neighbour told the Herald the woman lived at the house with relatives but was frail and could not move about easily.
She would spend time at home alone when other family members were at work.
The neighbour said the family were social and would visit other residents on the street to hand out sweets on Indian festivals such as Navaratri and Diwali.
The neighbour said he had spoken to the grieving family after the woman's body was discovered by a male relative earlier in the afternoon.
"He said somebody broke into the house and his mother had a heart attack and passed away."
The neighbour said it was a good area and this was the first time he know of something like this happening.
He understood the man lived at the house with his mother, wife and daughter.
He confirmed the body was still inside the house about 6.30pm.
Tearful family members - understood to include the woman's children and grandchildren - spent hours embracing outside the weatherboard home and consoling each other last night. They did not wish to comment.
The family cat was also locked outside the home and waited with the family.
Close to 7pm, the family ushered each other into cars and drove off together. Police remained at the scene.
Franich said police still needed to make a number of inquiries to establish what happened.
"We are supporting the deceased woman's family and our sympathies are with them at this difficult time," he said.
St John was called at 3.49pm and sent two ambulances, a spokeswoman said. Police said they had been notified around 3.50pm.
A witness at the scene said two detectives had been at the property earlier in the afternoon. Another officer had been standing guard at the rear of the property, which backed onto Chalmers Reserve and the train tracks.