Missing schoolgirl 'was seen arguing with man in street'

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The Independent Online

A woman may have seen the missing Essex teenager Danielle Jones arguing with a man only moments before her disappearance, police revealed yesterday.

The 15-year-old from East Tilbury has not been seen since leaving for school four weeks ago and yesterday police described the latest witness as potentially "significant.

"The witness said they saw a girl of a similar description and wearing a St Clere's School uniform in Coronation Avenue, East Tilbury, at about 8am on Monday 18 June," said a spokesman for Essex Police.

"The woman was looking out of a window in a block of flats and says that the girl appeared to be having an argument with a white man in his mid-30s. The girl pushed the man away during this argument."

The witness was distracted by a telephone call. When she returned, the arguing man and the girl had disappeared. Police said they could not be sure the schoolgirl, wearing a uniform matching that of Danielle's, was the missing youngster but added the information would be "significant" if that proved to be the case.

The latest witness came forward after Danielle's mother, Linda Jones, 41, issued an emotional appeal late last week. "The knife twists again and the knot in my stomach becomes so tight that it makes me sit up, tears in my eyes, gagging as though I can't breathe. I get up as I have no choice but to face the day ahead," she said of each morning, adding: "So we are pleading with the hearts of every single person out there to please, please, go to the police with anything you might think is remotely relevant to trace the daughter we love so devotedly."

The timing of the scene corresponds to when Danielle should have been boarding a school bus near her home.

Police have said that on the morning she vanished, three boys saw Danielle make a sudden about-turn while walking to the bus stop. They thought she was going to nearby shops. A girl fitting her description was seen by another witness getting into a blue Transit-type van.

Yesterday, a reconstruction of her last known movements was being filmed for the BBC's Crimewatch UK programme to be screened tomorrow.