FORENSIC evidence linking the killer of Jia Ashton to the scene of the crime has been uncovered by detectives who now believe the 25-year-old was murdered at random.
Officers said the clues could bring them closer to catching a killer who has now evaded capture for a month.
However, ‘early indications’ suggest the murderer of the Somercotes woman is not on any police database and has not been part of the investigation so far.
Det Chief Supt Steve Cotterill addressed regional and national media again on Wednesday and also released CCTV images of a man who could have valuable information but has not yet spoken to police following numerous appeals.
“Jia had trauma to her head and face and detailed forensic analysis of the scene has produced evidence about her killer,” said Det Chief Supt Cotterill.
“We now have forensic evidence that will help us trace the person responsible for her death.”
The investigation is still concentrated on tracing the man wearing a beanie-style hat whose image has appeared in posters, leaflets and media releases.
Officers have still not identified the mystery man, who was seen in the woods around the time of the killing on 10th March.
“He is the only person who was acting suspiciously in the woods and who jumped into the undergrowth when he was seen by others,” added Det Chief Supt Cotterill.
“We have another sighting of this man in Somercotes early on the evening of 10th March on Sleetmoor Lane, very close to the woods.”
The body of Mrs Ashton was found in Sleetmoor Wood on 13th March, three days after she went missing while walking home from work at Thorntons’ nearby headquarters.
Police say she was battered to death, with no evidence of a weapon being used or of sexual assault.
As they continue to press for a breakthrough, detectives released two pictures taken from CCTV of a man seen on the evening Mrs Ashton died.
He was spotted at the Cotes Park Inn on Nottingham Road in Somercotes. He is thought to be a different person to the suspect depicted in the sketches, but could have useful information.
“We are trying to speak to everyone who was in that part of Somercotes around the time Jia disappeared,” added Det Chief Supt Cotterill.
“We know this man was in the area at about 6pm and went into to the pub. I’d urge him to come forward to speak to us.”
More details were also released about the circumstances surrounding Mrs Ashton’s death.
Detectives say they currently believe robbery was not a motive.
“It appears to be a random attack,” said Det Chief Supt Cotterill.
“It doesn’t appear she was targeted for any particular reason.
“It is strange that it has happened in this way, but I’d add that it is very unusual and very rare.”
He added no-one had seen Jia being pulled from the pathway in the wood and that her body had been found around 100m from the route, covered in branches and twigs.
Detectives still believe the killer to be local, or to have knowledge of the area from living locally previously.
Det Chief Supt Cotterill added blanket testing, such as obtaining DNA swabs from local people, was a possible ‘consideration for the future’.
He added: “But given the volume of information coming in we may get someone calling with a name or further information (which could lead to an arrest).”
Last week police issued a new moving digital artist’s impression of the suspect in dark clothing and a beanie-style hat to better jog the memories of potential witnesses.
He is described as five feet eight inches to six feet tall, of athletic build, between 45 and 55 years old, with blonde/mousey stubble on his chin.
He appears to have been dressed entirely in green with a dark green beanie hat, a thigh-length green waterproof walking jacket done up to the neck and with padding around the neck, dark green or brown cargo/combat trousers.
He was carrying a distinctive bag over his shoulder described as beige, 18 inches square, similar to a satchel but made of a cord-type of material.
Mrs Ashton was a business analyst for Thorntons who lived on Springfield Crescent in Somercotes with husband Matthew, a teacher at Blidworth Oaks Primary School.
-Anyone with information should contact Derbyshire Police on 0345 1233333 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.