Northern Ireland

May Stevens: Tributes to teacher found dead at home after burglary

Police at the scene at Lismoyne Park, north Belfast, after a woman's body was found at a house on Sunday. Picture by Mal McCann
Police at the scene at Lismoyne Park, north Belfast, after a woman's body was found at a house on Sunday. Picture by Mal McCann

FORMER pupils have paid tribute to teacher May Stevens who was found dead after a burglary at her north Belfast home.

Late on Tuesday night police said that following the results of a postmortem examination they were no longer treating her death as suspicious.

The alarm was raised by police after a red Hyundai i30 car registered to the mother-of-two failed to stop for officers in the early hours of Sunday.

When they called to her Lismoyne Park home at around 3am, they discovered the break-in and the 64-year-old’s body inside.

Her husband Ivor, a retired quantity surveyor had been sleeping at the time of the burglary which is estimated to have happened between 1.30am and 2am.

Mrs Stevens had been due to become a grandmother next month.

Among the former Belfast Boys Model pupils paying tribute was MLA William Humphrey who said he was “so very sorry to hear” that she had died.

“Mrs May Stevens... taught maths during my time at the Model,” he said.

“My sympathy & condolences to her family circle.”

Thomas Mathers wrote on Twitter: “Saddened to hear of the death of May Stevens. She was one of my teachers in the Boys Model.

“A brilliant teacher and a very nice lady.”

Carrie-Ann Spence, a law student at Queen’s University, said her former teacher’s death was “completely heartbreaking”.

“One of the nicest women you will ever meet, she gave me the confidence to keep going in tech every time I doubted myself.”

Two other houses in the area – one in the same street – were also burgled at around the same time.

Meanwhile, police have defended their decision to wait 36 hours before they told the public that the men they are seeking as part of their investigation were at large.

Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said: “When police are called to the scene of a suspicious death there are numerous lines of enquiry that need to be followed in the initial stages.

“In all incidents the investigation is about the victim and their family. They are a primary concern for the investigating officers.

“There are many factors that have to be taken into consideration and one of these can be the timing of the release of information into the public domain.

“Every case is different and merits various investigative approaches depending on the circumstances and information available to officers.

“On occasions releasing information into the public domain can have a detrimental effect on the investigation by tipping off suspects and potentially leading to the destruction of evidence.

“Public safety is paramount and in such circumstances police will have carefully assessed any risk to the public.”