Burglars who robbed a former air hostess' home minutes before she collapsed and later died will be charged with manslaughter if they are ever found, an inquest has heard.

Maureen Whale, 77, who lived in Chipping Barnet, died from stress linked to heart and lung problems after her handbag was stolen and she collapsed while speaking to emergency services on the phone.

The thieves stole jewellery from her travels around the world including a 'Meghan Markle-style wedding ring' and a 'few pounds of her purse' on December 4, 2018.

She was rushed to hospital in a critical condition after the burglary just after 6pm - but died the following day.

Police said the ring similar to the one worn by the Duchess of Sussex on her wedding to Prince Harry in 2018 was a 'unique' piece - which was part of a haul that included her handbag, $900 and £30 in Turkish lira.

Ms Whale's stolen handbag was later found in a hedge near her home in Bells Hill, which runs adjacent to Barnet Hospital.

Times Series: The stolen handbag recovered by police. Credit: Met PoliceThe stolen handbag recovered by police. Credit: Met Police

Burglars wore baseball caps, beanies and hoods when they entered Ms Whale's home and stole her rings, a Pandora ring, plus a Tiffany necklace and bracelet.

Despite the Metropolitan Police offering a £20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and the case being featured on BBC's Crimewatch, no suspects were ever charged.

Times Series: Two of the three suspects caught on CCTV. Credit: Met PoliceTwo of the three suspects caught on CCTV. Credit: Met Police

The recording of Ms Whale's pleas for help to an emergency call handler came just seconds after the four-minute burglary, where two men stormed into her unlocked side door entrance while another man was a designated look-out outside.

Police released the 999 call, with Ms Whale saying: "I've just been burgled. They walked off with my handbag. It happened two minutes ago. I'm shaking, I'm sorry."

Officers and London Ambulance Service paramedics rushed to the cottage-style house where Ms Whale was found sitting on her sofa dazed and unable to breathe.

She was taken to Barnet Hospital where she died at 6.06am the following day, an inquest at North London Coroners' Court heard today (Wednesday August 25).

Times Series: Maureen Whale pictured working as an air hostess. Credit: Family handoutMaureen Whale pictured working as an air hostess. Credit: Family handout

Dr Ashley Fegan-Earl, a forensic pathologist, found there were no third-party injuries in the medical examination but discovered significant coronary heart disease linked to Ms Whale being a heavy smoker.

Ms Whale phoned the police within minutes of the four-minute incident but was soon unable to continue with the call. While she was an ill lady with the potential to die at any time, Dr Fegan-Earl said there was a link between her death and the burglary.

He told the court: "She was placed under significant stress that could have caused adverse effects on her heart or lungs.

"In my opinion, this was a causal death between the burglary and her demise."

The medical examiner found she died of a cardiac respiratory collapse alongside coronary heart disease brought on by stress.

Detective Sergeant Russell Duke of the Met Police requested the inquest go ahead despite confirming there had been no arrests and enquiries are still ongoing.

He said: "Forensic samples have been reviewed and we have no leads around DNA currently. We are still open with the reward to identify the three males involved.

"The CCTV is out there and we are appealing for information about who the three males are and the enquiry is obviously still active with us trying to identify the three males."

Her niece Gina previously said: "Our aunt was a fiercely independent woman who should have been safe in the home she had lived in all of her life.

"No one deserves to die in this way and we urge anyone who can help bring these men to justice to come forward and assist police with their investigation.

"Hearing the last phone call made by my aunt is extremely distressing but we hope that by releasing this to the public someone, somewhere will be moved to come forward with information."