Judith Richardson was found dead in the hallway of her home in St Wilfrid’s Road, Hexham, Northumberland, on Friday evening by officers after her bag and some of its contents were discovered dumped in a bin in Newcastle.
A post-mortem examination confirmed she died as a result of head injuries and the detective leading the investigation said she had suffered a “brutal attack”.
Miss Richardson’s family released a statement saying: “This has been a devastating loss and we are all in a state of shock. Judith was a wonderful person and we all loved her dearly.
“We hope that anyone who can will help police with their inquiries. We thank everyone for their condolences and ask that others respect the privacy of our family at this extremely difficult time.”
Miss Richardson never married and lived alone in her stone-built terrace home on the edge of Hexham’s bustling centre. She was regularly seen walking her dog in the local park.
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Young, who is leading the investigation, said: “This has been a brutal attack on an elderly woman in a quiet community.
“Our thoughts are with Miss Richardson’s family and we continue to exhaust all lines of inquiries to find the person or people responsible.”
He urged anyone who saw anything suspicious on a bus, train or taxi between Hexham and Newcastle on Friday to come forward.
Det Chief Insp Young said: “We are also keen to speak to any taxi drivers in the area who may have noticed anything or made a journey from Hexham to Newcastle on Friday.
“We are remaining open minded and want to appeal to everyone who may be able to provide information.”