Murdered woman had lived with religious group

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The Independent Online
A WOMAN whose body was found dumped in a ditch nearly a month ago was identified yesterday as Julie Anne Clayton, 27, an Australian who had been living at a religious commune at Towcester, near Northampton.

Police revealed details of the dead woman after talking to her friends over the weekend. Her parents, who live in Queensland, had been informed, along with other relatives, police said.

Detective Superintendent George Paterson, who is leading the murder hunt, said his priority was to trace her last movements. 'We believe Julie stayed overnight with a female friend in London on Friday night, 1 July. She left early before her friend got up and it is thought she may have been intending to hitch-hike north, but we don't know exactly where she was heading,' he said.

Her naked body was found wrapped in a duvet in a ditch at Coleby, near Lincoln, on the morning of 6 July. She had been placed there - dead or dying - at least 48 hours earlier, Det Supt Paterson said.

Lincolnshire Police said that having established the identity there was nothing to suggest the murder was linked with the murders of the two prostitutes in the region. Julie's background was a 'substantial difference' setting her case apart from the other two, a spokesman said.

Police said Julie's body was identified after John Campbell, communications officer for the Jesus Fellowship, recognised her from a computer-generated picture in the Daily Express. He told police that she had been living at the religious commune at Towcester and that he last saw her on 19 June.

Yesterday, he said that he looked at the Express picture and had thought, 'This looks very like her - I hope it's not'. But the features were so similar he immediately rang the police.

Following her identification, police spoke to more of her friends in Somerset, Cornwall, London and the Northampton area.

Det Supt Paterson said that when she left her friend's home in London, Julie was wearing a round-neck woollen jumper, an ankle-length purple skirt with black lace-up boots, and a beret. She was carrying a blue rucksack which either contained, or had strapped to it, her duvet and cover.

A man arrested in the Cornish village of Lostwithiel yesterday in connection with the hunt for the killer was later released without charge.