The murderer of Celine Figard, the French student whose naked body was found near Worcester, may be the serial killer who has been dubbed the "Midland Ripper", police revealed yesterday.
Her death is being linked with that of Tracy Turner, a prostitute found murdered in Leicestershire in 1994, whose killing was one of five discussed by senior detectives at a meeting in November.
Detective Chief Supt John McCammont, the officer heading the investigation into Ms Figard's murder, said: "There are several cases around the country, which are well known, where naked women have been found adjacent to major roads with similar injuries."
Bernard Figard, Celine's father, yesterday visited the spot where her body was found by a lay-by on the A449 at Hawford, Worcestershire, on Friday and laid three bunches of white and pink chrysanthemums beneath a tree. He stood with his head bowed and then, speaking through an interpreter, asked anyone with information about his daughter to come forward. He said: "Celine came to this country because she liked England and because she liked the people here. Anyone who can help must come forward."
Ms Figard, 19, an accountancy student, was last seen alive on 19 December accepting a lift from the driver of a white Mercedes lorry at the Chieveley service area at the junction of the M4 and the A34 near Newbury, Berkshire. He is described as 30 to 35 years old with short fair hair, possibly a short cropped beard but no moustache. The driver has not come forward to clear himself of suspicion and detectives are increasingly convinced he was responsible for the murder.
A post-mortem examination revealed she had been strangled and suffered head injuries. Although there was no obvious sign of sexual assault, further tests will be carried out. The suggestion that Ms Figard was not sexually assaulted, and the fact that she was found naked and had been strangled, have led detectives to link her death with that with that of Ms Turner, 32, from Stafford, who worked as a prostitute picking up customers at motorway service stations in the Midlands.
In November senior police officers from Leicestershire, West Midlands, Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire police forces met to discuss similarities between the deaths of Ms Turner, Samo Paull, Dawn Shields, Julie Finley and Julie Clayton.
Det Chief Supt McCammont said police are now concentrating on two aspects of the inquiry. "We want to get as much information from the site where she was found, so we are appealing to motorists and walkers on the A449 between Worcester and Kidderminster to contact us if they saw anything suspicious by the lay-by.
"We are also appealing for the lorry driver who was seen at the Chieveley Service Station on the M4 on December 19 to come forward."
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