Police hunting a fairground worker suspected of murdering his ex-girlfriend and then burning her body have issued a warning to female Facebook users after discovering that he uses the site to meet women.
George Appleton, 40, is wanted in connection with the death of his former partner, 36-year-old Clare Wood, who was found badly burnt in the bedroom of her home in Salford on Friday. Now at least four women have told police that Mr Appleton, who has been arrested before on suspicion of sexual assault, has contacted them through the online social networking site in the past week.
Yesterday officers from Greater Manchester Police said Mr Appleton had used several aliases on dating websites to contact women; they urged any other women who had had online contact not to meet him.
Superintendent Ian Palmer said: "We believe he represents a serious threat to women who he knows or who he might come into contact with. Officers believe he has made contact with women through social networking sites such as Facebook and dating websites. We would strongly urge anyone who has had contact with him not to maintain that contact and to report the fact to the police as quickly as possible. The investigation is revealing a crime of significant violence." Police are waiting for the results of a post-mortem examination to find if Ms Wood was dead before she was set on fire.
On Sunday, detectives named Mr Appleton as their prime suspect and released pictures along with CCTV images of him leaving his house in Adelphi Court, Salford, on Thursday. The force also said the pair had been involved in a previous relationship which started in April 2008 but they did not meet on Facebook. Police said that the pair's relationship was over at the time of Ms Wood's death and there was no suggestion that they had planned to rekindle their romance.
Ms Wood's grandmother, Catherine Camponi, 75, from Batley, West Yorkshire, said: "Clare was a lovely, kind person who would never harm anyone. She was lovely to be with and very cheerful. She did not deserve what's happened to her."
Yesterday, the Facebook profiles of Mr Appleton and Ms Wood remained online. That showed they had been in contact via Facebook since May 2008, when Ms Wood joined the site. She has a 10-year-old daughter, who was at her father's home at the time.
On her lonely-hearts profile she wrote: "I am a talkative, affectionate woman who would love to hear from someone who is relatively sane in my area. I would like to meet a respectful, affectionate man." She also listed her biggest fear as "dying painfully".
Mr Appleton's profile shows he last appeared to have used the site on 4 February. He listed his interests as "Music computors [sic] djing films". Under the Activities section his profile read, "Wouldent [sic] ya like to know". He said his favourite TV shows were "horror sci-fi comedy". Under the Favourite Books section he wrote "Dont read". His profile also featured a picture of "Pinhead", the killer from the Hellraiser horror films. Mr Appleton is thought to have links to Salford, Warrington, Leicestershire and Gloucestershire and has connections with the travelling community, having worked on fairground sites.
When last seen, he was wearing tracksuit bottoms with a white stripe, white Reebok trainers, dark jacket and a woolly hat with brown, red and purple stripes. It is possible he is driving and sleeping in a red Ford Escort estate, registration N554 HYG.