Linda Bryant, who had lived all her life in the hamlet of Ruan High Lanes, was seen talking to a man dressed in light clothing less than an hour before her body was discovered.
Police said her attacker would have been covered in blood and agitated after the attack in which she was stabbed in the back, neck and throat. Her body was spotted in a field gateway by a tourist.
Police said it is still too early to make any link between this attack and the murder last autumn of 14-year-old Kate Bushell, whose throat was cut as she walked a dog near her home in Exeter in Devon. Mrs Bryant, a cleaner who was 41 and had two daughters, was walking her dog when she was attacked. Detective Superintendent Mike Stephens, who is leading the hunt for Kate's killer, was yesterday with the squad of detectives investigating Mrs Bryant's murder.
Assistant Chief Constable John Essery said there were currently no forensic links between the investigations, but "we must, at the earliest opportunity, explore the possibility of a link, and treat certain aspects of the early investigation as if there was one."
As police searched for a murder weapon yesterday, Mrs Bryant's husband Peter and daughters Leah, 21, and Erin, 19, were being comforted by specialist police.
Detective Chief Inspector Chris Boarland, leading the murder hunt, said Mrs Bryant "almost certainly put up a struggle and fought for her life". Police want to trace the man seen talking to Mrs Bryant at 1.45pm on Tuesday just under an hour before her body was found. Mrs Bryant who was wearing a brown waxed coat, a blue pullover, dark jeans and brown walking boots was seen talking to the man near the Ruan Methodist Chapel, 100 yards from the murder scene. He is thought to be in his 30s and around 5ft 9ins tall.
At a news conference in St Austell, Det Chf Inspe Boarland said: "It is crucial for us to identify this person. If he is the person we are looking for we want anyone else who saw him to come forward."
Police have asked all local businesses with closed-circuit television to retain the film and to contact the police if they saw anything suspicious. They also want to trace the driver of a white van seen following Mrs Bryant's grey Sierra after she stopped at a garage a mile from her home to buy milk. The driver was bearded, in his 50s, and of a large build.
The parents of Kate Bushell, who was murdered on November 15, have come forward to help the police hunting Mrs Bryant's killer. Suzanne Bushell, from Exeter, said: "I feel someone is hiding information possibly because it is a loved one. Just come forward."Reuse content