Women warned as hunt for Joanna Yeates' killer continues

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The Independent Online

Police are warning women not to walk home alone after dark because landscape architect Joanna Yeates's killer remains at large.

They acknowledged the alarm in the local community sparked by the grim discovery of the 25-year-old's snow-covered body on Christmas Day.

But they reassured the public that patrols had been stepped up in the up-market Clifton area of Bristol where she lived, and that they were "determined to find out" who killed her.

The comments yesterday came the day after officers from Avon and Somerset Police freed Miss Yeates's landlord Chris Jefferies on police bail pending further inquiries.

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

Speaking outside the smart Victorian property on Canynge Road where Mr Jefferies lives above the flat Miss Yeates shared with her boyfriend, Chief Superintendent Jon Stratford said: "I can understand why the public in the Clifton and wider Bristol area have concerns for their safety. Whoever killed Jo remains at large.

"However, I want to reassure the public that there remains no specific intelligence or information to suggest there is an increased threat to their safety at this time.

"Naturally we ask the public to continue to take the usual safety precautions. Lone women should avoid walking home alone after dark and householders should keep their premises secure and take care answering the door to strangers."

Increased patrols are being maintained in Clifton to reassure the public, he added, as more than 70 police officers and other staff continue to investigate the brutal crime.

He gave assurances that there was nothing to suggest the murderer was a serial killer nor that the public should be extra worried.

Mr Stratford also thanked the public for helping with the inquiry so far, revealing that more than 1,000 phone calls had been received.

"We have been overwhelmed with the level of response from members of the public and continue to ask anyone who thinks they may have any information to lead us to Jo's killer to contact us," he said.

He added: "Jo's killer is still out there somewhere and we will find them and bring them to justice. We know Jo was murdered. At the the moment we don't know who killed her but we are determined to find out."

Prayers were said for Miss Yeates yesterday morning at nearby Christ Church, where associate vicar Dan Clark urged the congregation to remember her family, the police investigating the case and the journalists covering it.

He said: "Many of you will know this has been quite a difficult few weeks for the local community following the sad news about Joanna Yeates.

"I would like us to pause and bring our own quiet prayers for Joanna's family."

As the congregation bowed its heads, he added: "As well as praying quietly for Joanna's family, friends and colleagues, let's also pray quietly for the police working hard to solve this case and the press working hard to publicise this case and jog people's memories."

Despite reassurance from police Charlie Johnson, who has lived in Clifton for five years, said she and her friends are still worried.

Ms Johnson, 30, who is nine months pregnant and due to give birth on Friday, said it has made her think twice about going out at night.

"Being pregnant and the thought of running away from someone makes me worry, it doesn't feel very good as I'm less mobile and so I've been going out less," she said.

"It's just the sort of thing I would do - walking home alone from Park Street - it's not very far and is pretty safe, so I think that's why it's been so shocking.

"It's definitely made me think twice about going out.

"Because of Christmas and New Year, we've had lots of parties and a lot of my friends - the girls - who have wanted to go home early have been stressed about even getting a taxi alone."

Christopher Jones, 35, who has lived in Clifton for about a year said he's not overly concerned but does make sure his wife is careful.

"Obviously we are cautious, but we are always cautious about her safety, she wouldn't go out alone at night," he said.

"For instance, when running on the downs we make sure it is nice and light.

"It's a horrible thing that has happened but it's not like we live in a really bad area or anything."

Another resident said: "We're not at all worried - I've lived in Clifton for 12 years and it's not going to stop me going about my daily business.

"It's a puzzle and has been shocking, and it seems like nobody really knows what's going on, but we're confident in the police and if they say there's no increased threat I'm sure that's the case."