Det Supt Peter Hinde, leading the inquiry, said an hour after Mrs Routley's car was found, a woman fitting her description was seen about three miles away. It strengthened the theory that she was alive, but abduction or murder had not been ruled out, he said.
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Alison Routley, the legal executive who went missing more than a week ago, is believed to have been sighted dressed for walking soon after her car was found burnt out. Somerset police said she had taken walking boots, a rucksack and outdoor clothing when she disappeared more than a week ago.