A REWARD to catch the murderer of the 'Curry Queen of South Shields' has been doubled to £20,000 after a year-long bid to solve the case.

Disabled Mary Lazenby was 80 years old when she was kicked and stamped to death at her Bethnal Green home in East London in May 1999.

The pensioner was the first person in South Shields to open an Indian restaurant in the early 1950s, and by 1958 she had a chain of three, employing 30 people, before moving south.

Shortly after her brutal murder a national appeal was broadcast by the BBC Crimewatch programme, but despite more than 280 statements and 600 telephone calls to murder squad detectives, nobody has ever been brought to justice.

As the Gazette reported last August, a London-based businessman had offered a 10,000 reward to catch the killer but this has now been doubled in an effort to solve the case.

A coroner's court in the capital on Wednesday heard that 4ft 8ins Mrs Lazenby was found with a broken spine, jaw, ribs and breastbone after the attack in her sheltered accommodation flat.

Pathologist David Rouse said her injuries were some of the worst he had ever seen. He said: "This was a frenzy of violence on a defenceless elderly lady."

Mrs Lazenby, who had lost her right foot in a childhood accident, married a merchant seaman and in 1941 moved to Bethnal Green with their one-year-old son, Larry.

But after her husband was killed during the Second World War, she saved enough money to send Larry to boarding school and moved back to her home town of South Shields, where she started her chain of curry houses after spotting a gap in the market.

The popular food quickly became an integral part of South Shields, and still remains one of the biggest attractions to the town.