Fresh inquiry launched into death of Bassey's daughter

Police have re-opened their investigation into the death of Dame Shirley Bassey's daughter almost 25 years ago.

Samantha Novak, 21, was found lying face down in the River Avon downstream from Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol in 1985. A coroner said it appeared that she fell off the riverbank after a night out with friends. But Dame Shirley did not accept the inquest's finding and has always suspected that her daughter was murdered.

Avon and Somerset Police re-opened their files after the mother of a woman who was beaten to death nine years ago said her daughter's killer may have also been involved in Ms Novak's death. Police are questioning a convicted murderer, Michael Moffat, 47, who was jailed for 11 years for battering his lover to death in Hastings, East Sussex, in 2001. His attack left Penny Beale, 31, with 123 injuries, including 18 broken ribs. Her liver, spleen and lungs were ruptured.

Ms Beale's 60-year-old mother, also called Penny, wrote to police claiming Moffat, originally from Edinburgh, had a relationship with Samantha Novak and boasted of his involvement in her death. Detective Chief Inspector Mike Carter, head of the cold case team at the Avon and Somerset force, confirmed officers were making fresh inquiries but said there was still little evidence to suggest Ms Novak was murdered.

"The mother of Moffat's victim wrote to us with some information in the last couple of weeks," he said. "Her daughter had said Moffat told her he was involved in the murder of Samantha Novak."

Dame Shirley has always had suspicions about how her daughter died. Interviewed last year, she said: "She didn't have any water in her lungs. I'm suspicious about her death. It's bothered me all this time."

The singer, who lives in Monte Carlo, raised Samantha with her second husband, the Italian producer Sergio Novak.

Moffat was transferred to a Scottish jail after requesting to be nearer to his family, but is reported to have lived in the same area as Ms Novak at the time of her death.