Police believe Jodi's killer is a local man

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DETECTIVES hunting the savage killer of 14-year-old Jodi Jones said today they believe they are looking for a local man.

Murder squad officers believe whoever carried out the frenzied attack on the Lothian schoolgirl must have known the tree-lined walkway where the murder took place.

Jodi’s semi-clothed and battered body was discovered by her 14-year-old boyfriend, Luke Mitchell, late on Monday night.

The teenager had been repeatedly stabbed and her throat had been cut, but police have found no evidence of a sexual attack.

As the hunt for the murderer continued today, officers at the scene of the killing on the edge of Dalkeith widened their search for the knife used to repeatedly stab the teenager which they believe may have been dumped nearby.

Police today also repeated their appeal for public help to catch the killer, even though they received more than 140 calls in the first 24 hours of their inquiry.

Officers believe the killer’s clothes are likely to have been covered in blood after the attack and that someone may find them.

Detective Inspector Tom Martin, who is in charge of Lothian and Borders Police’s major crime team, said today he believed they were looking for a killer who knew the local area well.

"There has to be an element of local knowledge given the location of the finding of the body," he said.

"It would be perhaps somewhat strange for a complete stranger to happen upon this walkway, which is a shortcut for kids and used by local people. To us, that would depend on some kind of local knowledge."

Mr Martin today repeated warnings to people living in the former mining communities around where the murder took place to be extra vigilant.

"We are mindful that this person is still at large and would ask that if a member of the public has any suspicions, or, with the benefit of hindsight, remembers seeing anyone strange at the time, to come forward.

"We also want to know if somebody has disappeared from the local scene or has shown a marked change in behaviour."

He said officers working on the case - currently more than 40 - were today carrying out door-to-door inquiries and forensic teams were engaged in a more detailed examination of the crime scene.

The area of examination has been extended in the hope of discovering the murder weapon, which has still to be recovered.

Mr Martin added: "The main focus of the search will be the weapon used in the murder. There is a strong likelihood, given previous experience, that this could be found in reasonable proximity to where the body was found."

He said both Jodi’s family and her boyfriend Luke’s family, who live one-and-a-half miles from Jodi’s Easthouses home in neighbouring Newbattle, were "extremely, extremely distressed".

"This has been a massive shock and blow to both families, especially Jodi’s. But they are receiving support from family and friends," he said.

Police say they have had a good response from the public and received more than 140 calls in the first 24 hours. But there have been no sightings of the girl, leading police to believe she may have been killed shortly after she was last seen.

Mr Martin added that the public had responded "extremely well" to the police’s appeal for information, but that as yet there was "no indication" why Jodi was targeted.

The 14-year-old was killed as she went to meet her boyfriend, in what police said was one of the most violent attacks they had come across in decades. The teenager’s family raised the alarm when she did not return after setting out from her home in Easthouses at 5.30pm on Monday.

They realised she was missing when Jodi’s mother, Judy, 38, sent a text message to Jodi’s boyfriend, Luke, saying she had missed her 10pm curfew.

When he replied to say that he had not seen her, the family called the police, and Luke joined members of her family to hunt for the schoolgirl.

Luke found her body just before midnight next to a footpath in woods behind Newbattle High School. The path she had used was a popular shortcut with local people and would have saved her having to walk for an extra half-hour.

Police said the schoolgirl had put up a struggle before being overpowered by her killer.

Detectives are still trying to piece together Jodi’s final movements, particularly between 5pm and 8.30pm - the time directly after she left her home in Parkhead Place.

Jodi is described as 5ft 7in, with shoulder-length light brown hair and wore glasses. She was dressed in jeans, dark blue trainers with a dark sweatshirt top.

Detective Superintendent Craig Dobbie yesterday described Jodi’s murder as "one of the most violent crimes I have experienced in my 28 years as a police officer".

Mr Dobbie said there was a "distinct chance" that the attacker may have bloodstained clothing.

"That’s another thing that people should be aware of - if anyone is aware of anyone with bloodstained clothing, or anything going into dry cleaning with bloodstains."

Asked what advice police would give to parents in the local area, Mr Dobbie said he would urge them to be vigilant about their children - "as they should always be".

And he appealed for any locals who may have been using the walkway on Monday evening to come forward. He said: "People use it for walking their dogs on a regular basis, most evenings and mornings.

"What I’m interested in is anyone who was using it between five o’clock and ten o’clock on Monday night to come forward."

Community councillor Robert Hogg said the killing had left the community in Easthouses and Mayfield badly scarred.

He said: "It could be a long summer if they don’t catch someone for this. Schools break up on Thursday and parents would be afraid to let their kids out to play."

Tributes have been paid to the young teenager, with flowers left at both the entrance to the pathway where she met her death and at Newbattle Community High School, near to where her body was found.

One tribute placed at the school read: "Jodi, Loving angels will be there to catch you".

The floral tributes, which numbered over a dozen, also included a poster with Jodi’s photograph, and the words "Rest in Peace".

And another printed passage summed up the feelings of many in the community. It read: "Beautiful, young and innocent, sadly taken by the scum of this earth. May Jehovah deal with them personally. All our heart and soul’s are with you and your family. May your courage bring you all through this sad time."

Jodi’s mother, brother Joseph, 20, and sister Janine, 17, were being comforted by friends and relatives at the semi-detached family home. The 14-year-old was close to her extended family, particularly her grandmother, who the whole family moved in with for a short time about eight years. Jodi continued to regularly visit her grandmother, who lives near the rest of the family, sometimes spending weekends with her.

Joseph said: "We are all too upset too speak about it right now and have nothing to say."

Another female relative, who did not want to be named, said: "It is just too painful. Nothing we can say or do will bring Jodi back."

The tragedy will be even more difficult for the family because it falls near the anniversary of her dad’s death. James was 39 when he hanged himself in the family home where they stayed nearby in 1998.

Neighbours of the family were last night stunned to hear about the murder of a girl they described as studious and bright.

One 40-year-old, who did not want to be named, said: "This has come as a horrific shock to everyone who lives in the area.

"I saw Jodi on her way back from school on Monday afternoon and she walked past my house looking like she didn’t have a care in the world.

"She was a very friendly girl from a very nice family. She was always at school. I always saw her getting on and off the school bus.

"She seemed very popular. There were always friends of hers calling at the house. She was like any other teenager, she had started dying her hair different colours such as red and purple, and experimenting with clothes. She had a Goth style and so did her boyfriend, who she was with a lot."

An elderly neighbour, who also asked not to be named, said: "This is shocking, considering there is never any trouble here. Lots of people use that path as a short cut and think nothing of it."

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