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WE JUST PRAY IT'S THE SAME MAN WHO KILLED OUR KATE; Dad in `copycat' shock.

THE father of knife-murder schoolgirl Kate Bushell spoke yesterday of his horror that her unknown killer may have struck again.

Jerry Bushell, talking grimly of the stabbing of Lynda Bryant in a similar West Country setting, said: "We just pray it is the same person who has carried out the killings because we don't want two of them out there."

Kate, 14, had her throat slashed as she walked alone with her dog on the edge of Exeter, Devon, last November 15.

Mrs Bryant, 41, a mother-of-two, met her killer as she took lurcher pet Jay for a walk along country lanes in neighbouring Cornwall.

She was wounded in the chest, neck and back early on Tuesday afternoon.

As the police chief leading the hunt for Kate's killer joined the new probe, Mr Bushell was told of the possible link by detectives.

Mr Bushell, a retired local government officer, said: "We had hoped no other family would have to go through the same as us. Our thoughts go out to the Bryants.

"When I heard the news of the latest murder, I thought `Oh no, not again'.

"You become very sensitised to anything remotely with any similarity to Kate's death. Mrs Bryant's death and Kate's do appear to be similar. It was always our greatest fear that, having done it once, he would strike again."

Police boss John Essery, assistant chief constable of Devon and Cornwall and head of CID, admitted there were no forensic links between the two killings.

But he added: "We must explore the possibility of a link and treat some aspects of this new, early investigation as if there were."

A post mortem and other tests on Mrs Bryant have still to be completed.

The "very youthful" mum returned from her cleaning job to her home in Ruan High Lanes on Cornwall's Roseland peninsula at 1pm on Tuesday.

She then took her dog out for its daily three-mile walk. At 1.45, she was seen talking to a man in his 30s outside a Methodist chapel.

An hour later, a holidaymaker found Mrs Bryant's body at the gateway to a field 100 yards away.

Police last night appealed for other witnesses who may have seen the man at the chapel. He was not a "local". They also want to see a bearded man in his 50s who followed Mrs Bryant out of a garage where she had bought milk.

Relatives of Mrs Bryant - who had recently celebrated becoming a gran - were said to be distraught and "rolling in tears".

Her engineer husband Peter, who was working away from home, learned of the news in a phone call from police.

Det Supt Chris Boarland said of the killer: "He has committed a horrendous crime and was likely to have been covered in mud and blood."

The officer asked for help from anyone with a "neighbour, son, husband, boyfriend or brother" who was arousing suspicion.

He said Mrs Bryant "almost certainly put up struggle...she has fought to save her life".

Villagers said she was a "caring, lovely lady". Jean Mitchell said: "She was so thrilled to be a gran, but she looked so young."

Schoolgirl Kate, whose murder was sexually-motivated, was stabbed near her home at Exwick on the outskirts of Exeter.

Det Supt Mike Stephens, head of that inquiry, is helping check possible links to Mrs Bryant's death.
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Author:Lakeman, Geoffrey
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 22, 1998
Words:562
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