The alarm was raised after Kate Bushell, a churchgoing teenager who loved music and sport, failed to return from walking the Jack Russell terrier on Saturday evening. Her parents reported her missing to police and began searching for her themselves.
Her body was discovered off a country lane near the family's home on a private estate on the outskirts on the city. She had been attacked with a sharp instrument, possibly a knife, which has not yet been found.
Yesterday, Steve Maddern, headteacher at St Thomas High School, where Kate was a pupil, described her as "a popular, talented and lively girl". He said: "Students and staff will be shocked and numbed by this awful news."
Detective Superintendent Mike Stephens appealed at a press conference for anyone with information to come forward. He said he also wanted to hear from people who walked their dogs locally. "This is the murder of a young, innocent girl in a residential area," he said. "We ask for as much public assistance as possible." Mr Stephens said that while Kate's body was found fully clothed, he had not yet ruled out a sexual assault.
Kate left the house at 4.30pm and was expected to be back within 20 minutes. At 6.45pm, her parents, Jeremy and Susan Bushell, began searching for her by car. She was found less than an hour later near a stile in a corner of the field. There were no signs of a struggle. The dog, Gemma, was by the body.
As a post-mortem examination continued yesterday, 80 police officers conducted door-to-door enquiries on the housing estate
Mr Stephens said that Kate, who had a 16-year-old brother, Tim, payed the piano, clarinet and saxophone. She was in the school basketball team and attended a local church with her father.