Four held in hunt for schoolgirl's killer

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The Independent Online
Five men were arrested yesterday in an early morning police operation in connection with the murder of schoolgirl Naomi Smith.

The men were arrested at separate addresses during a 7am raid, codenamed Operation Bird, by around 80 detectives and officers from Warwickshire police on houses in the Nuneaton area.

One was released without charge last night, leaving fourin custody at Bedworth police station. Officers simultaneously visited a further 21 people to obtain witness statements about the death of Naomi, 15. A further 12 people were taken to the station to assist police with their inquiries.

A police statement added that the 33 people visited had been questioned. None of them had previously been spoken to and most had failed to respond to widely publicised appeals for their co-operation.

Detective Superintendent Tony Bayliss, who is leading the hunt for Naomi's killer, said: "As a result of intensive inquiries and detailed information from the public, officers are confident that many of the people we have seen may have vital information about the murder of Naomi Smith.

"I will repeat my appeal to members of the public or friends of any person involved in this offence. Now is the time to stand up and be counted."

Police are still looking for a knife and a baseball bat connected with the murder.

Det Supt Bayliss also defended last Sunday's press conference where Naomi's best friend, Emma Jones, also 15, appealed for information. "The request to attend the press conference was made by Emma herself because she wanted to help find Naomi's killer. She also feels the conference helped her come to terms with her own grief," he said.

Naomi's body was found on 14 September under a climbing frame in a school playground in the quiet village of Ansley Common. She had gone missing after going to post a letter for her mother at a nearby post office.