Joanna Yeates murder police launch Facebook plea

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The Independent Online

Detectives investigating the murder of Joanna Yeates launched a national campaign on Facebook today to appeal for witnesses.







Avon and Somerset Police have placed an advert on the popular social networking site, appealing for help, in the hope of catching the landscape architect's killer.



The 25-year-old's snow-covered body was found on Christmas morning by a couple walking their dogs just three miles from her home in the Clifton area of Bristol.



Detective Chief Inspector Phil Jones, who is leading the murder investigation, said: "The majority of people these days are spending time on Facebook and other social networking sites.



"This has become part of everyday routine for many people.



"This advert allows us to point people to special features on our website with all the latest information, it allows them to contact the incident room direct online rather than calling in.



"I would once again urge anyone who may have not contacted my team and may have information that could help this inquiry to contact us. Let us decide if this information is significant."



Meanwhile, crime scene investigators were at Miss Yeates's flat today, using advanced forensic techniques to examine the scene.



There was a sign outside the building in Canynge Road saying "Do not enter, dangerous chemicals."









Avon and Somerset Police have successfully used Facebook in several other high-profile cases.



It is a far more cost-effective method than poster campaigns and mass leaflet distribution and, due to the viral nature of Facebook, can be shared much wider.



Scott Fulton, head of e-services for the force, said: "Social media is growing rapidly and has become a daily factor in most people's routine.



"On this inquiry alone we have had shares of the story from the force's Facebook page of 24,220. Additionally there have been over 63,000 views of the news updates on our website, a further 18,000 on the dedicated Jo page and over 70,000 views of the CCTV clips on our YouTube channel.



"Through the website we have had 260 inbound messages to the incident room. Anyone can send information to the team this way via http://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/jo.



"We have been very pleased with information received via these channels on this investigation and we hope this advert will encourage even more people to come forward."









Today investigators wearing white suits came out of Miss Yeates's flat, while a number of uniformed officers entered the flat of her landlord, Chris Jefferies, on the opposite side of the building.



Yesterday, police revealed they had found no evidence that Miss Yeates was sexually assaulted while also suggesting that more than one person may be responsible.



Detectives are appealing for help in tracing a 4x4 vehicle seen near the spot where her snow-covered body was discovered in Longwood Lane, Failand, North Somerset.



But they also revealed that they still do not know when and where she died.



Mr Jones told reporters yesterday: "At this stage there is no evidence to suggest that Joanna was sexually assaulted.



"However, I have not ruled out that there might have been a sexual motive."



Appealing for help in finding the 4x4, he said: "We have had a number of reports of vehicles in Longwood Lane during the late Friday evening and early hours of Saturday morning, including a possibly light-coloured 4x4 vehicle.



"This 4x4 and the other vehicles may be completely unconnected but I urge anyone in that car or any other driver in the vicinity that night to come forward."



The senior detective revealed that there were still significant gaps regarding Miss Yeates's final hours.



"I am satisfied that Jo got back to her flat but I'm not able to speculate whether she let somebody into the flat, whether somebody was already in there or whether someone broke into the flat," he said.



"At this time I cannot say where or when Jo was killed, or when her body was left on Longwood Lane.



"The significant snowfall in the early hours of Saturday December 18 has a considerable impact on this and I am working with numerous forensic specialists to determine the timings."



He also raised the possibility of more than one person being involved.



He said: "I can assure you, we are determined to solve this crime, and bring Jo's killers to justice."



When asked about this comment later, he said: "I think that phrase emphasises that I am not making any assumptions in this case."



Police have warned women not to walk home alone.



Mr Jefferies, the only person to be arrested as part of the investigation so far, was freed on police bail pending further inquiries.



The 65-year-old was detained last Thursday on suspicion of the murder and held until Saturday night, when he was released.



Increased patrols are being maintained in the upmarket Clifton area where Miss Yeates lived with her boyfriend, Greg Reardon, 27, to reassure the public.



Police have said there was nothing to suggest the murderer was a serial killer or that people should be unduly worried.



Miss Yeates was last seen on the evening of Friday December 17 after she had been drinking with colleagues in the Ram pub in Park Street.



Her body was found by a couple walking their dogs on Christmas morning. She had been strangled.



A pizza that Miss Yeates bought on the night she disappeared remains of interest to police.



Officers have searched through 293 tonnes of domestic rubbish to find the pizza, and said it is not clear at this stage whether Miss Yeates had eaten it.



"This is potentially a long and complex inquiry, involving over 70 police officers and staff," Mr Jones said.



"No stone will be left unturned in this investigation."



Anyone who can help the investigation can call the Operation Braid incident room on 0845 456 7000 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.



A £10,000 reward is being offered to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Miss Yeates's killer.