A murdered pensioner whose body has been found hidden in a north London churchyard had a large personal fortune, her family have revealed.
Norma Girolami, 70, from Highgate, was last seen alive in mid-August 2021, when she vanished from her £900,000 home in the quiet tree-lined street of Cholmeley Park after a trip to the Essex seaside.
Metropolitan Police detectives recovered human remains on Wednesday after searching the grounds of St Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church in North Finchley, Barnet.
Ms Girolami’s cousin, Jack Girolami, 67, told MailOnline today of their horror at the discovery – and revealed how her wealth may have put her at risk.
He said: ‘Her father died at the start of last year, he was well into his nineties and owned several properties in North London and Italy so was a very wealthy man.
‘When he died, all the family fortune went to Ms Girolami because her four brothers had already died. She inherited it all and was worth a lot of money.’
Norma Girolami had not been seen by family or friends since August, and was reported missing on September 20
Jack, who used to live near to her in London before moving to Broadstairs, Kent, went on: ‘Norma was a lovely lady, she was so kind and would do anything to help you.
‘We used to be friendly with her when we lived in Highgate. She would spend every Christmas with us and we’d go on holiday to Italy with her. She also used to like going to Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt as well.
‘My daughter was one of the last people to see her alive. She visited Norma’s home last Easter to give her an Easter Egg.
‘Norma was a very generous woman and would always invite her in but on this occasion she wasn’t her usual self. She seemed to be in a hurry to get back inside.
Metropolitan Police detectives recovered human remains on Wednesday after searching the grounds of St Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church in North Finchley, Barnet (picture taken on Wednesday, November 2)
The scene where the body was found is four miles from Ms Girolami’s apartment, which is situated in an upmarket suburban area near Hampstead Heath and was left by the Italian pensioner with food still in the fridge.
Jack was not aware of any connection she had with the church where she was found.,
He said: ‘Norma was a churchgoer and would go every weekend pretty much as she was very religious but she went to St Joseph’s in Highgate.
‘But not the churchyard on Friern Barnet Lane where her body was found. ‘As far as I know she had no link or involvement with that church.’
He added: ‘I’m glad the police have found her. She can now be buried properly and laid to rest respectfully. She deserves that.’
Police outside Elm Court, Cholmeley Park, Highgate, where Ms Girolami was last seen (picture taken on October 4 2021)
Police at the scene in north London searched a churchyard on Wednesday as they looked for the remains of Ms Girolami, missing since August 2021 (picture taken on Wednesday, November 2)
The last known movements of the wealthy pensioner are being looked into by detectives who today revealed her body has been found in a north London churchyard after more than a year of searching.
The scene is four miles from Ms Girolami’s apartment, which is situated in an upmarket suburban area near Hampstead Heath and was left by the Italian pensioner with food still in the fridge.
A ‘no body’ murder investigation was launched in October 2021 after it was deemed that there was a lack of ‘proof of life’ – with all contact with Ms Girolami ceasing on the evening after her trip.
Serkan Kaygusuz, 42, from Islington, was arrested and charged with Ms Girolami’s murder in the same month. He is currently in custody awaiting trial.
Police previously searched several addresses before discovering her body at the graveyard.
The remains found in the graveyard have been formally identified as being that of Norma Girolami and her family has been notified by detectives (picture taken on Wednesday, November 2)
The remains found have been formally identified as being that of Ms Girolami and her family has been notified by detectives. They are set to undergo forensic examination.
A £20,000 reward for information related to Ms Girolami’s disappearance was announced by police just a matter of weeks ago.
But the reward did not assist in the Met’s latest finding in the case, which the force said was a result of evidence gathered by detectives as part of the investigation.
A blue crime scene tent was spotted in the grounds of St Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church on Friern Barnet Lane on Wednesday (picture taken on Wednesday, November 2)
The Met said that Ms Girolami, whose family are from Italy, ‘loved’ to visit the seaside town of Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.
The pensioner made a trip to the Essex shore on Thursday, August 19 2021 – the day she was last heard from.
She took the train from Barking and returned to her home in leafy Highgate later that day. All communication from her ceased that evening.
She disappeared without saying goodbye to her loved ones and her home was left with food still in the fridge.
Ms Girolami regularly traveled to Brent Cross to do her shopping and used public transport to make her way there. She was also a member at Archway Leisure Centre.
She has been described as ‘friendly, courteous and a very nice person’ by shocked neighbours.
After her disappearance Jack Girolami told the Standard how alarm bells started ringing after she had not responded to a text message in August.
The Met previously said Ms Girolami liked to visit the seaside town of Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, and made a trip there on Thursday, August 19 2021
He said at the time: ‘We are worried sick, this is totally out of character for Norma. We thought she may have gone to Italy where the family are from to spread her dad’s ashes but we don’t think that is the case now.
‘She was very comfortably off, wealthy but not mega rich. She sold a house in Highgate and inherited her dad’s house in Enfield. She was also a bit gullible and was trusting in people which is a bit worrying.’
The average house price in the leafy garden suburb where Ms Girolami lived, located near the famous Highgate Cemetery, is £890,000.
Her homely apartment block, Elm Court, is situated in a quiet and tight-knit community in one of London’s most expensive and greenest boroughs.
Detective Chief Inspector Kate Blackburn said the investigation into her disappearance is ongoing and urged anyone with information to contact police.
She said: ‘Despite accepting that Norma was no longer alive, I know that her family are deeply affected by the news that her remains have been found. Our thoughts are very much with them.
The churchyard is located four miles from Ms Girolami’s £900,000 home in Cholmeley Park
Police confirmed on Wednesday that they were searching for the remains of Ms Girolami. A large black screen was put up around the area they were searching
A black screen was put up around a large section of the graveyard while police searched the area in Friern Barnet on Wednesday
‘My team has spent more than a year searching for Norma and there is a sense of relief that we have found her remains which will undergo forensic examination in due course.
‘Despite this discovery, I would still be very keen to hear from anyone who knew Norma, either in London or at Leigh-on-Sea who can provide information on anything that was happening in her life in August last year.
‘I am also appealing for anyone who saw any activity around the Churchyard in Friern Barnet Lane, N20 between August and October last year.
‘Norma’s family and friends have endured a year of not knowing what had happened to her and our investigation remains ongoing.
Norma Girolami, 70, from Highgate, was last seen alive in mid-August 2021, when she vanished from her £900,000 home in Cholmeley Park
A policeman at the rear of Elm Court, Cholmeley Park, Highgate, the home of 70-year-old Norma Girolami
‘If you have any information, no matter how small a detail it may seem, please do get in touch.’
Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Tweet @MetCC.
If you prefer not to speak with police and wish to remain anonymous call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit Crimestoppers-uk.org.