Family speaks out after death of The Black Cap's former landlady held at knifepoint in her Beckton home
PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 09:33 18 December 2019
A "bubbly and vivacious" retired landlady has died almost four months after being held at knifepoint in a burglary at her home.
Hester Frayne, 82, was suffering from lung disease, bed-ridden and using an oxygen mask to help her breathe when three masked men armed with knives and a hammer burst into the living room of her home in All Hallows Road, Beckton, just after 11pm on August 27.
The thugs smashed their victims' mobile phones before two ransacked rooms upstairs, taking jewellery and £800 cash.
The third wielded a knife in front of Hester.
When her oxygen mask fell off and Hester started to turn blue, granddaughter Mandy leapt up to replace it, but the robber yelled at her to get back down.
She defied the bully, saying, "You're not going to kill my grandmother".
When Mandy challenged him for targeting a woman unwell in her bed, he said they wouldn't have done it had they known. The ordeal lasted for 30 minutes.
Daughter Dee Edwards said: "It was so horrific. Even if you were well, you would still find this incredibly tough."
Hester, better known as Babs to punters, was in the pub trade for 45 years, running The Green Gate, in Plaistow, Upton Manor Tavern, in Upton Park, The Black Cap and The Laurel Tree in Camden.
Big name Britpop bands Blur, Suede, Elastica and Pulp were regulars at The Laurel Tree's Blow Up northern soul and mod night before shooting to fame. Dee took over the venue in about 2005.
Dee said: "It's a terrible end. This wonderful woman has died instead of living out her life peacefully as she should have been allowed to.
"Mum was always very well liked and respected. She was bubbly and vivacious. We are all bereft and devastated. She has left a huge void in our lives."
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Hester was at The Black Cap from about 1977 to 1988.
Recalling her "formidable" mum's years behind the bar, Dee said: "She was the first woman in the UK to hold an all day Sunday licence. It was hard for women to hold a licence back in the day, but she was instrumental in breaking barriers. This is a hideous end."
After the burglary, Hester's health deteriorated to the point when she contracted pneumonia. Living in fear inside her own home, she had bars fitted to her windows.
"She was terrified after what happened. She went downhill," Dee said, adding that although she was already suffering ill health, she still had a decent quality of life.
Hester died on December 5.
The family is speaking out now in the hope someone with information will contact the police.
Dee said: "She didn't want anyone to know at the time because she worried the burglars might return. We respected her wishes.
"But I feel like [the burglars] have got away with it. I want them to know she has died. If anyone has an ounce of conscience and knows these people, they should give them up."
According to the family, detectives searched nearby CCTV, but the men couldn't be identified because their faces were covered by balaclavas.
"[The burglars] made the excuse they would not have done it if they'd known, but if you can recognise that then you just leave. They didn't have to steal her jewellery," Dee said.
The burglars are described as speaking with English accents and well-built.
A Met spokeswoman said: "An investigation was carried out including analysis of CCTV. Following an assessment of available evidence, a decision was made to close the investigation.
"This can be reopened if any further evidence comes to light."