University researcher goes missing after colleague is murdered in violent struggle

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The Independent Online
A UNIVERSITY researcher fought for her life against a murderous attacker in a laboratory, police revealed yesterday.

Elizabeth Stacey, a 24-year-old psychology technician, put up a violent struggle as she was beaten with a blunt instrument in a room at the University of Westminister in central London. Details of the attack emerged as detectives continued their hunt last night for a colleague of the dead woman, who was the last person seen with her.

Scotland Yard said Ms Stacey was murdered on Friday, shortly after going to help Steven Reid, 33, a psychology researcher at the university, with a computer problem Mr Reid, who has disappeared, was one of the few people who had the security code that opened the door to the laboratory where the murder is believed to have taken place.

The police are to examinestaff pages on the university's website that refer to Mr Reid and Ms Stacey. As well as giving academic information, Mr Reid's site includes a picture of himself interchanging with a picture of the actor Brad Pitt. Police were last night checking Mr Reid's home town of Edinburgh, as well as ports and airports. He was described as a loner with few friends.

The murder inquiry was set up after Ms Stacey's body was discovered on Saturday afternoon in the locked health psychology laboratory, room 470, on the fourth floor of the Department of Psychology in Regent Street. The dead woman had suffered severe blows to the head. Her clothes had not been removed and police do not believe that she was sexually assaulted, although forensic tests are still to be completed.

Detective Chief Inspector Guy Ferguson, who is leading the inquiry, said: "It would appear that Elizabeth sustained fatal head wounds following a violent struggle." A heavy, blood-covered, blunt instrument found nearby was being analysed to see if it was the murder weapon.

Det Ch Insp Ferguson said Ms Stacey, a Cambridge University physics graduate, had last been seen, with Mr Reid, at about 10am on Friday. He said that Ms Stacey had been about to have a cup of tea in her office, which was also on the fourth floor of the psychology building, when Mr Reid came into her room to ask for help with a computer problem. "Elizabeth volunteered to help him. They both then left the office and that was the last time Elizabeth was seen," said the detective.

"I am keeping an open mind on Steven Reid at the moment," Det Ch Insp Ferguson said. "I am obviously very anxious to speak to him."

Ms Stacey's parents, with whom she lived in north London, reported her missing on Friday evening. Her body was found in the locked laboratory at 2pm on Saturday, following a search of the university. In a written statement released yesterday her parents said: "We have lost a very dear and much loved daughter."

The room where Ms Stacey's body was found was described as remote and rarely used. People had to tap out a code number on a security key-pad fixed to the door to gain entry.

Mr Reid, whose studies included stress management, was based on the fifth floor of the psychology department. He joined the department after obtaining a degree at the university as a mature student.

Ms Stacey, who like Mr Reid is believed to have been single, joined the university two months ago and was described as popular and talented. She is not believed to have had anything other than a working relationship with Mr Reid. She had worked as a psychology technician in the psychology department of the School of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

Professor Keith Phillips, head of the school, said: "She was a happy, optimistic person, and meticulous and excellent in every aspect of her work."

The police are investigating reports that Mr Reid had set up an "obsessive' website dedicated to Ms Stacey, but it looks increasingly likely that this was merely a hoax suggestion made by a student.

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