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Dog walker recounts 'lucky escape' after reporting James Fairweather to police

PUBLISHED: 09:05 30 April 2016 | UPDATED: 09:58 30 April 2016

Essex Police search a different part of the Salary Brook Trail after the murder of Nahid Almanea.

Essex Police search a different part of the Salary Brook Trail after the murder of Nahid Almanea.

The dog walker who reported James Fairweather to police after seeing him lurking in bushes has said she is no doubt she could have been his next victim.

James Fairweather pictured after his arrest on May 26 last year, after he was spotted by Michelle Sadler.James Fairweather pictured after his arrest on May 26 last year, after he was spotted by Michelle Sadler.

Michelle Sadler, 41, was taking her Cavalier King Charles spaniel for walk along the Salary Brook Trail on May 26 last year when she spotted Fairweather acting suspiciously further along the trail.

Mrs Sadler said she felt compelled to walk closer to get a better look before retreating, checking over her shoulder that she was not being followed by the strange man on a bridge.

She then spoke to another female dog walker before the pair retraced their steps, to see him hiding in bushes – at which point she rang police.

“I thought ‘if you don’t call them you will never forgive yourself’,” said Mrs Sadler.

“It was odd because it was the first day of the school holidays, he had no dog, and the jacket was out of place and matched what police had described after the murder on Salary Brook Trail [of Nahid Almanea].”

Mrs Sadler and the other dog walker waited in an open area until police arrived, ready to warn other lone passers-by about the youth’s odd behaviour.

“I’ve had three close-ups with him and I’m very lucky to be here,” Mrs Sadler added.

“If I had gone in five minutes later where I found him a second time I would not here today. And I know that.

“It doesn’t make me feel great.

“When you’ve got someone staring at you from bushes, wearing big thick-rimmed glasses, it is frightening.

“When Nahid Almanea as killed no-one was walking out there. But as time goes on, and the murder wasn’t being linked with that of James Attfield and there were rumours of an honour killing, I stupidly relaxed and started walking out there again.”

Mrs Sadler said she had seen Fairweather, without his glasses, the week before while walking alone, during which he spoke to her and petted her dog.

“My dog would have licked him.

“I don’t usually have him on a lead, but the day of the arrest I did. If I hadn’t he would have just walked to the bridge and I would have followed.

“I had a very lucky escape.”

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