Jean Helena Barnes had chosen to live alone and, apart from the odd conversation with a few neighbours and her gardener, enjoyed a solitary existence.

As one of the first women to graduate from Cambridge, she was a highly intelligent woman who spoke six languages and had worked as an Air Ministry translator for many years before becoming a civil servant until her retirement in 1972.

Miss Barnes spent her childhood in Windsor, where her father was rector of Holy Trinity Church, before moving to Ipswich where she was educated at the town's high school.

She moved to Worthing, where she looked after her elderly father and was often seen pushing him in a wheelchair before he died.

She also had a dog she used to take for walks but it died in 1996. She was seen less and less by neighbours until she became a virtual recluse.

At some point, Munley intruded on the closed world of the spinster.

Detectives do not know whether they were friends or even ever spoke to each other.

One theory is that Munley, a painter, decorator and builder, used to walk his dog along Miss Barnes's road and she became a familiar face to him.

Munley had lived on and off with 74-year-old Judith Munley since they divorced in the mid-Eighties.

They got back together in the early Nineties and in the year before his arrest, Munley slept on the sofa of their home.

The would-be entrepreneur worked for Packworth Ltd from 1984 to 1991 on building contracts until the company went into voluntary liquidation.

Munley stepped in and bought the fire protection division from the receivers, running it as Fire Safety UK Ltd.

However, the firm hit financial difficulties. Owing the bank about £18,000, Munley was forced to liquidate it and sell his home in Windsor Road, Worthing, to pay off ten per cent to his creditors.

In 1997 he had a county court judgment made against him and started work for Scorpio Builders in Lancing to pay off his debt.

For a while in 1998 he lived on his own in a room at the Selden Arms, Lyndhurst Road, Worthing, before moving to Church Walk.

Finally, in April 1999, he moved back in with Judith in Byron Road and worked on a casual basis as a builder, painter, gardener and general handyman.

It was then he said his "interest" in antiques took off and he began trawling car boot sales, antiques fairs and charity shops for bargains.

He first targeted Jean Barnes in 1998 when he telephoned, pretending to be from her bank, and asked for personal details.

However, Miss Barnes became suspicious and refused to answer, later reporting the call to the police.

Munley had gathered sufficient details to apply for a credit card in her name.

The call was just the start of Munley's victimisation and months later he broke into her home, finding it full to the brim with valuable antiques.

The temptation was too great, and once he had discovered her treasure trove he simply could not contain his greed.

He burgled her time and time again, stealing paintings, clocks and china worth thousands of pounds. He sold the haul on to antiques dealers in Worthing.

Miss Barnes noticed items going missing from her house and called police at least six times for help.

However, officers found no evidence of a break-in and, believing she was simply lonely and wanted to talk to someone, informed social services.

In February she had even been visited by a police crime prevention officer who arranged for a new front door and window locks to be fitted.

The next time the police were to visit her home was on July 26 last year, when her body was discovered.

Friend Hilda Woolven, who lived opposite Miss Barnes's home, used to talk to her on the phone twice a week and became alarmed when she did not hear from her for several days.

Miss Barnes would read stories from newspapers to her over the phone because she had failing eyesight.

The pair became friends after Miss Barnes fell in the street and Mrs Woolven came to help her.

She said: "I can't speak too highly of her. She was a lovely woman. She was a little bit eccentric but she was so intelligent that I think she had a right to be.

"It was shocking to find out she had been killed. She was very frail. She was a strong character but frail. It was painful, it really was. It took a long time to get over it."

Munley, who had tried to cover up the death for as long as possible, had left a further trail of clues.

He had opened her post and found red reminders for bills, which he paid, and wrote a note to the milkman asking for her order to be stopped.

The note read: "Dear milkman, I am sorry I am going into hospital on Monday, July 26th then I will be going into a nursing home. Please can you leave me the bill and an extra loaf."