Murder of teenage model is linked to sexual attack

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The Independent Online

Detectives investigating the murder of Sally Anne Bowman linked her murder in Croydon, south London, to a sexual assault committed in 2001 in nearby Purley.

Ms Bowman was stabbed and sexually assaulted. Her body was found on the pavement next to a skip on Sunday morning.

Police yesterday advised women living in the area to be vigilant. Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Cundy, leading the investigation, said forensic evidence linked the incidents and that it was possible the suspect had assaulted other women since 2001. "Obviously it's possible that that suspect has committed other crimes since 2001," he said.

The victim of the 2001 assault survived and her description of the attack was very similar to Ms Bowman's case, although a knife was not used.

DCI Cundy urged anyone who had been the victim of an unreported sexual assault to come forward, and he warned women in the area to take extra safety precautions when going out.

He said: "I want to urge women in the south Croydon and Purley area to be vigilant, to take sensible precautions, such as being aware of your surroundings, arranging how to get home when planning a night out, [and to] make sure someone knows where you are going and when you are due back." He said he could not rule out the possibility that the attacker had been lying in wait for his victim.

The suspect is described as white, in his 20s or 30s, and between 5ft 9ins and 6ft tall. He was of proportional build with short dark hair and clean-shaven.

Mr Cundy said a witness who is believed to have seen the suspect shortly after Ms Bowman was stabbed to death near her home had come forward with details.

Four men who were arrested since the murder have all been released without charge after forensic tests ruled them out of the inquiry, including Ms Bowman's former boyfriend, Lewis Sproston, 20, from Tooting, south London. He had recently returned from a week-long holiday with her.

Detectives said the part-time model had spent Saturday night out with her sister and some friends in Croydon.

She went to Lloyds Bar, before returning to a friend's house at 1am, but later returned to the town-centre bar in a cab.

She was picked up from there by Mr Sproston, who dropped her off outside her home.

She is believed to have been murdered between 4.15am and 4.30am on Sunday, shortly after he left.

Neighbours raised the alarm after hearing the young woman - who had been wearing white high-heeled shoes, a denim skirt and white top with a butterfly motif - screaming in the early hours of the morning.

During the frenzied assault, the suspect stole her white leather Prada handbag which contained a Samsung D500 mobile phone. Her passport is also missing. Police appealed for anyone who had seen the items or been offered them to come forward.

"It may be that the person who murdered Sally Anne discarded these as he left the scene, or he may have sold them on," said DCI Cundy.

A statement from her family released to the press said how much they "loved and missed her". It read: "Sally Anne was a kind, lovable girl who brought love and warmth to all that met her. Her mum, dad and sisters miss her terribly and her death has shattered the family."

Ms Bowman, who had also worked as a hairdresser, had formerly attended the Brit School for the Performing Arts in Croydon, whose former pupils include music stars Morcheeba, Amy Winehouse and Katie Melua.