Police continue hunt for Joanna Yeates killer

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The killer who strangled landscape architect Joanna Yeates and dumped her body by a roadside was being hunted by police today.

Detectives leading the murder investigation said they were pursuing a number of lines of inquiry and maintained they were keeping an "open mind" over whether the 25-year-old was held captive or killed in the lane where she was found.

Miss Yeates' father yesterday spoke of how he felt "relief" after being reunited with the graduate's body, which was found on a grass verge in Failand, North Somerset, by dog walkers on Christmas morning.

David Yeates, 63, also said his family was trying to "rationalise" what had happened and hoped his daughter's killer would be brought to justice.

He told the Solent News and Photo Agency: "I fear that whoever has done this will never hand themselves in but we live in hope that the police will catch who is responsible.

"We are sure the police know more about what happened than they are telling us, but at the moment we are not questioning them because we feel they are doing their best."

Mr Yeates said the news that his daughter had been murdered came as no surprise to him or wife Theresa, 56, because the family had been told to prepare for the worst.

The past week had been the worst of their lives, he added, speaking from his home in Ampfield, Hampshire, but said viewing her body had made things a little easier.

"It was a relief to see her again - we just said 'Welcome back'," he said.

Avon and Somerset Police yesterday revealed that Miss Yeates died as a result of "compression of the neck".

Detective Chief Inspector Insp Phil Jones, who is leading the murder investigation, said he believed her body had been dumped in Longwood Lane, Failand, "several days" earlier.

The officer said a number of lines of inquiry were being pursued, including the possibility there was a sexual motive behind her killing or that the graduate knew her killer.

He confirmed that Miss Yeates' boyfriend, Greg Reardon, who reported her missing on Sunday night after returning home from a weekend away in Sheffield visiting family, was being treated as a witness and not as a suspect.

The landscape architect had been missing for eight days when her clothed body was discovered by a couple walking their dogs close to the Bristol and Clifton Golf Club - about three miles from her home.

Miss Yeates was last seen alive on the evening of December 17 having bought a pizza in Tesco Express in Clifton, at about 8.45pm.

Minutes before she had brought two bottles of cider from off-licence Bargain Booze, located just metres away from the Tesco store.

Police believe she then walked the short distance home to the ground-floor flat she shared with her boyfriend because her keys, purse and bank cards were found there, together with a receipt from Tesco.

Earlier that night she had left the Ram pub in Park Street in Bristol city centre where she had been having a drink with work colleagues and walked to Waitrose on the Clifton Triangle, before heading to Clifton Village and the Tesco Express.

Forensic officers yesterday continued the meticulous search of the Failand area and police were also examining Miss Yeates' flat in Canynge Road for signs of a struggle.

"There are a number of other lines of inquiry that we are pursuing," Mr Jones said.

"One of these is inevitably going to be how Joanna got from her home in Clifton to Longwood Lane, which is about three miles away.

"This means that we will be looking at any possible routes that could have been taken to get to and from that location.

"This includes reviewing relevant CCTV footage from cameras on the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which is an obvious link between the locations.

"However, this is just one of a number of routes that could have been taken, and we need to make sure we cover every possibility."

Miss Yeates' parents, close relatives and partner Mr Reardon made a heartbreaking visit to where her body was found to lay flowers on Monday.

Mr Jones appealed for anyone with information about her murder to contact police.

"Somebody out there does know what happened to Joanna," he said.

"Somebody out there is holding that vital piece of information we need to help provide Joanna's family with the answers they need and want.

"We know some of her last movements on Friday December 17. We know where and when she was found. We now know how she died.

"What we have to do next is find out why she was killed and who was responsible.

"I would urge anyone listening to me today who has any information whatsoever to please come forward and speak to us."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Operation Braid incident room on 0845 456 7000 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

HELPING HAND: Ben Wilson, MD at MPM, with Victoria Hopkins, MD at Hopkins Catering. PIC: Tony Johnson

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