Family of teenage girl find her body after brutal attack

Family members found the battered body of a 14-year-old girl on a woodland path she had taken on the way home from her boyfriend's house, police disclosed yesterday.

Jodi Jones was discovered dead five minutes from her home in the former mining village of Easthouses, in Dalkeith near Edinburgh, late on Monday night. "This young girl suffered a brutal death involving a high level of violence," said Detective Superintendent Craig Dobbie, who is leading a murder investigation involving more than 20 officers.

Officers retracing the victim's last known movements said that she had left her family home to visit her boyfriend, who lives near by.

But she did not arrive and her mother, who started to worry when she had not returned by 10pm as expected, went out with other relatives to search the area. The girl was spotted by a family friend on a path behind Newbattle Community High School.

"She is one of a fairly extended family and when they were looking for her, they found this body of a young teenage girl," Det Supt Dobbie said.

"This was one of the most violent crimes I have experienced in my 28 years as a police officer," he said. He refused to give details of the girl's injuries while the investigation was under way but confirmed that she appeared to have been attacked at the scene. He said he could not rule out a sexual motive. The unlit route, known as Roman Dyke, is used regularly by people walking their dogs.

"The path near to where her body was found is used by members of the public as a shortcut from Easthouses to Newbattle Road, Dalkeith, and we need to speak to anyone who may have information regarding her death," he said.

The police officer appealed for any information from laundry or dry-cleaning services that might have been asked to handle blood-stained clothing because, he said, there was a "distinct chance" that the attacker would have been covered with blood or even injured. There was evidence of a violent struggle at the scene, he said.

Yesterday, the close-knit community of Easthouses, which is 10 miles south of Edinburgh between the North and South Esk rivers, was warned to keep a close eye on children in case of further attacks.

"Certainly it would be wrong for me to say that this was a one-off situation, because I don't know," said Det Supt Dobbie, who added that police patrols had been stepped up since the killing. "I don't want to be alarmist either but certainly I would not like to see this repeated," he said.

Robert Hogg, a community counsellor for Easthouses, said that the death would leave the community scarred. "It could be a long summer if they don't catch someone for this," he said. "Schools break up on Thursday and parents would be afraid to let their kids out to play. They'll be worried sick."

At the family's two-storey terraced house, which Jodi shared with her mother, Judith, 38, and brother, Joseph, 20, police liaison officers were attempting to comfort the family. Her father, James, a postman, suffered from depression and committed suicide in 1998 when he was 39.

Counsellors also visited St David's Roman Catholic High School in Dalkeith, where Jodi and her 14-year-old boyfriend were pupils.

Marian Docherty, the headteacher of the school, which has about 1,000 pupils, said: "Nobody likes to imagine the trauma that family is now going through and I feel very deeply the loss that the community is experiencing. Jodi was a lovely girl who was popular with her classmates and with staff."

Donald MacKay, Midlothian Council's director of education, said counsellors would be available to comfort the girl's classmates. "Midlothian is a very close community and the impact of this young woman's death will be widely felt throughout the area," he said. "We will do everything that we possibly can to support the family and other pupils, particularly her school friends."