DETECTIVES hunting the killer of Jia Ashton say it is still not clear whether or not she was killed by someone she knew.
Det Chief Supt Steve Cotterill spoke after a reported sighting of a man pictured in sketches released last week drew a blank.
Officers also released new images of the unidentified man, including a moving image which they hope will better jog the memories of witnesses.
Sleetmoor Wood in Somercotes, where the 25-year-old was murdered on 10th March, was sealed off briefly on Tuesday (29th March) after a reported sighting of someone matching the description of the man pictured wearing a beanie hat.
But the man turned out not to match the profile and was eliminated from the inquiry.
Said Det Chief Supt Cotterill: “This is a difficult inquiry. We are continuing to explore whether or not a stranger was involved in the killing but the position is not entirely clear.
“There are still more than 90 staff working on the case and the response from the public has been very positive.”
Mrs Ashton was murdered as she walked home through the wood on 10th March shortly after leaving work at nearby Thorntons’ headquarters.
She was heading home to Springfield Crescent in Somercotes when police say she was the victim of an assault.
Her body was found in the wood three days later during a search by a mountain rescue team.
Last week police released an artists impression of a man in a khaki jacket and trousers, boots and a beanie-stlye hat.
He was not clean shaven and carried a satchel-type bag over one shoulder. Officers are yet to trace him after distributing leaflets around the local area.
New images of the man were released on Thursday (31st March), including a moving ‘EVO-fit’ composite image.
Research has shown that when the image moves in this way it helps people to recognise the identity of the face which will ‘appear’ or ‘pop out’ at some point during the sequence.
Det Chief Supt Steve Cotterill said: “As our inquiry enters its third week we believe we are getting closer to finding the person responsible for Jia’s murder.
“We now have some new images which we hope will jog people’s memories and I would like to widen my appeal for information to anyone who was in the area of the woods in the days and weeks before the murder.
“We have recently learnt that 27 members of Somercotes Walking Club were in the woods during the morning of March 10 and I would like to hear from them. They may be able to help.
“There was a reported sighting on March 29, of the man who featured in the artist’s impressions, in Sleetmoor Wood.
“The police responded immediately and the woods were sealed off for a time. The man was traced and eliminated from the inquiry.
“The man in the woods was not the man we are looking for and our enquiries remain focused in Somercotes and the surrounding area.”
Mrs Ashton, whose husband Matthew is a teacher at Blidworth Oaks Primary School, was a businesses analyst for the chocolate maker.
Chief Constable, Mick Creedon added: “The inquiry is a priority for the force. It is well-resourced and the investigating team is determined to catch Jia’s killer.”
Anyone who recognises the man in the artist’s impression should contact Derbyshire Police on 0345 1233333 or call Crimestopppers on 0800 555 111.