THE body of a teenage schoolgirl bludgeoned and stabbed to death was discovered on a quiet woodland footpath by members of her own family.
Relatives launched a search for Jodi Jones, 14, after she went missing on the way to meet her boyfriend. The search ended with the discovery of her body in woodland close to her home in Easthouses, near Dalkeith, Midlothian.
Detective Superintendent Craig Dobbie, of Lothian and Borders Police, said Jodi’s murder was "one of the most violent crimes I have experienced in my 28 years as a police officer".
Police said there was evidence that Jodi had put up "quite a struggle" with her attacker before she was overpowered.
As a squad of more than 20 detectives began the search for her killer, parents in the Dalkeith area were urged to be vigilant, with their children preparing to start the school summer holidays.
Jodi, a pupil at St David’s RC High School in the town, was last seen leaving her home at 5:30pm on Monday. She was planning to visit her boyfriend, Luke Mitchell, who lives just over a mile from her home in Easthouses.
She never arrived at his house and when she failed to return home by 10pm, her mother, Judith, 43, called the police to report her daughter missing.
Mrs Jones’ son, Joseph, 20, along with other male members of Jodi’s extended family who live in the area and her boyfriend, decided to carry out their own search for the missing schoolgirl.
Just over an hour later, they found her battered body close to a woodland path known as Roman’s Dyke, which is a direct shortcut on the route to her boyfriend’s home.
Police have refused officially to confirm the nature of the murdered teenager’s injuries other than to say she suffered a "high level of violence". It is understood that she was severely battered and had her throat cut.
Mr Dobbie said detectives were working on the assumption that she was attacked at the spot where her body was found and have appealed for witnesses who were in the area to come forward. The footpath, which runs between a wall bordering Newbattle Abbey and a barley field, is popular with dogwalkers, joggers and children.
Jodi, who was 5ft 7ins tall and had shoulder-length brown hair and wore glasses, was last seen wearing jeans, blue trainers and a dark sweatshirt.
Mr Dobbie said the police were pursuing a number of lines of inquiry and added that it was possible the killer would have been heavily bloodstained as a result of the attack.
News of the murder shocked residents in Easthouses, a small, 1950s housing scheme about a mile outside Dalkeith, where Jodi and her family moved five years ago following the death of her father, James. They had previously lived in Mayfield, the larger, adjacent housing estate.
At St David’s school, where Jodi was known as a bright pupil particularly fond of music, children and staff were offered counselling to help come to terms with her death. Jodi’s elder brother and sister are both former pupils at the school.
Marion Docherty, the headteacher, said: "Jodi was a cherished member of her extended family and of the school, and we’re all praying for the family at this difficult time."
Two separate services are planned at the school today and a full remembrance mass will be organised after the summer holidays.