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The mystery around a south west schoolgirl's murder

The mystery around a south west schoolgirl's murder

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 1:51pm 3rd April 2018. (Updated at 5:08pm 3rd April 2018)

Police investigating the murder of a south west schoolgirl say the mystery still remains unresolved despite almost half a dozen new leads.

Devon and Cornwall Police launched a fresh appeal for clues on the 20th anniversary of Kate Bushell's death, at the end of last year.

The force said that the public might hold a vital clue about what happened to the 14-year-old from Exwick.

She was killed on Saturday 15th November 1997 as she walked a neighbour's dog near her home.

Officer say they had more than 200 calls after the plea in November 2017, and investigated 10 new lines of enquiry

But this week detectives finished the fresh review into the murder, having exhausted all new leads and completing enquiries into the intelligence received.

They have assured the public that the case will always remain open in a bid to catch the teenager's killer.

Kate Bushell exeter murder

Kate was killed on Saturday 15th November 1997 as she walked a neighbour’s dog near her home. Her body was found in a field off Exwick Lane by her father. She had sustained a brutal knife wound to her throat.

Last June a team of serving and retired detectives and staff, some of whom worked on the 1997 enquiry, began re-examining key evidence in the hope of finally catching her killer.

On the 20th anniversary they launched a major public appeal for people to come forward with critical and previously withheld information that may help to solve the case.

The appeal generated an excellent public response with 204 calls and messages into the incident room identifying 10 new significant lines of enquiry, including the names of potential suspects.

Over the last four months, detectives from the Major Crime Team have examined the public messages in detail and reviewed up to 5,000 documents, including an in-depth look at 30 original witness statements.

From the 10 new leads, a number of individuals named by the public have been reviewed in significant detail by officers but eliminated from the enquiry at this time. Detectives travelled across the country to speak to a number of individuals.

While the active part of the operation ended this week, the murder enquiry remains open and police stress that they will respond to any new information or evidence from the public.

The investigation team and the Bushell family this week praised the public for their support for the appeal.

Kate Bushell exeter murder

Senior Investigating Officer Paul Burgan said: "We really would like to thank the public for the tremendous response to the 20th anniversary appeal which totally surpassed our expectations. It was more than 10 times the response to the 10th anniversary appeal in 2007. As a result detectives have pursued 10 significant lines of enquiry, including named people who were all reviewed in depth.

"Unfortunately, despite the volume of calls, that one vital piece of information still alludes us and sadly we still do not know who is responsible for Kate’s death.

"The investigation team has worked extremely hard over the last few months and I praise the dedication of the officers and staff involved. The active phase of the operation has ceased and all current enquiries have been completed, but that does not mean that the case has been closed. This murder enquiry will be subject to future review and any intelligence received will be assessed and investigated accordingly."

Kate Bushell exeter murder

Tim Bushell, Kate’s older brother, 35, said the family were extremely grateful for the work carried out by police plus the support from the public, and appealed to anyone who may still be withholding information to speak out.

He said: "I personally thank everyone who contacted the police to give additional information, as well as the tireless efforts put in by current and retired members of Devon and Cornwall Police.

"The 20 years of dedication, professionalism and effort put in by the police to try and solve Kate’s murder is staggering. I have been left humbled by the support and good wishes from friends, family and the wider community.

"My parents and I still hope that someone will come forward and that justice will be served. Again, we would please urge anyone who is in the position, but for whatever reason wasn’t before, to come forward and contact the police."

Kate Bushell exeter murder

The 2017 anniversary appeal asked the public to help identify a man seen with a blue car in a layby in Exwick Lane at the time of the murder, and another unknown man seen running frantically down a field from the direction of where Kate was found.

They revealed the presence of orange fibres from non-florescent workwear found on Kate’s body and a country stile nearby, plus the nature of the murder weapon used, a knife with a blade around six inches long.

Detectives remain convinced that the offender has a local connection due to the location of the crime scene, an isolated rural spot mainly used as a cut though and by local dog walkers.

Mr Burgan added: "We would still encourage people to keep the information coming as we still need that critical bit of information that could help us to identify and apprehend Kate’s killer. We are still looking for that one call from someone who may well be wrestling with their conscience and debating whether to call the police.

"This may be due to misplaced loyalty or they may think they will be treated criminally if they only come forward at this late stage. Let me be very clear, our priority is to apprehend a child murderer. If you think you know something, be brave and please pick up the phone.


"We would like to especially praise the bravery of the Bushell family who have acted with great dignity throughout the review and indeed over the last 20 years. We are extremely disappointed that despite a huge response from the public that we cannot bring some form of justice to the Bushell family and most importantly for Kate herself."

If you have information to assist the investigation please contact police via 101@dc.police.uk or by phone on 101, quoting Kate Bushell murder enquiry and ask for the information to be passed to HQ Major Incident Room.

Information can also be passed anonymously to independent charity Crimestoppers via 0800 555111 or www.crimestoppers-uk.org

The charity has offered a £10,000 reward for information received through them that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the murder.

For an in-depth look at the case and the evidence, please go to: www.dc.police.uk/katebushell

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