Police appeal over dead woman's partner

DETECTIVES investigating the killing of a mother-of-three whose body was found in the back of a car appealed last night for her missing partner to come forward.

By Danielle Nuttall

DETECTIVES investigating the killing of a mother-of-three whose body was found in the back of a car appealed last night for her missing partner to come forward.

Deborah Townsend - who also used the surname Hamilton - was found dead in the back of a silver Landrover Discovery car in the grounds of Newland Hall, Roxwell, on Saturday.

The discovery of her body is also being linked to the discovery of congealed blood and scalp on a road in north Suffolk - which is where police think she may have been killed.

The 35-year-old former care assistant, from East Ham, London, is thought to have travelled to East Anglia on Thursday for a holiday on the Norfolk Broads with her partner, Christopher Caunter.

But it emerged yesterday police have not been able to trace Mr Caunter, 33, since Ms Townsend's death - and a search for him has been launched.

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Police believe the victim was killed near the spot alongside the A146 at Beccles where a motorist found a pool of congealed blood and a clump of brown hair attached to tissue on Friday.

A post mortem examination has confirmed Ms Townsend died as a result of head injuries.

Detectives are treating her death as murder but could not confirm yesterday what weapon had been used to cause the injuries and whether such an instrument had been found.

They also said it was not clear why her body had been dumped in Roxwell but said the site was a fairly remote location.

A 41-year-old man who voluntarily walked into a police station in Barking, east London, with information about the crime has been released on bail pending further inquiries.

He was initially arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder and was quizzed by detectives over the weekend.

It is believed the information he provided led detectives to the location of Ms Townsend's body.

Police have not revealed the identity of the man or how he is connected to the couple.

Senior investigating officer, Det Ch Insp Rick Munns, of Suffolk police, yesterday appealed for anyone in the boat hire business who took a booking for customers who did not show, or anyone who saw the pair in London or East Anglia, to contact police.

He said: "I am releasing a photograph of Deborah as it is very important that we trace her movements during the period that led up to her death.

"I need to speak to anyone who saw her in London or East Anglia, or who has information about the movement of the Landrover Discovery that her body was discovered in.

"I am also appealing to Deborah's partner Christopher Caunter aged 33 to contact us as we have not been able to trace him since Deborah's death and it is very important that we speak with him as he may have information that is crucial to this inquiry.

"I have been told that the couple were planning to hire a cruiser to take a trip on the Broads and I would like to hear from anyone in the boat hire business who took a booking for this week who either saw the couple or whose customers failed to show up to collect the boat."

Det Ch Insp Munns said Ms Townsend, who had never married, had two daughters aged 18 and 15 and a son aged eight - none of whom were Mr Caunter's children.

He said it was not clear about the living arrangements of the mother and her current partner, whom she had been with a number of months, and whether they lived together in a single house.

He said that Deborah had had a conversation with her family either on her way to the Norfolk Broads on Thursday or when she had just arrived.

However, they did not hear from her again and the following morning blood and scalp tissue was found on the A146 at Beccles.

"We have estimated from the scene (Beccles) that the injury to Deborah has been caused in the hours of darkness on Thursday through to Friday morning when it was discovered," said Mr Munns.

The detective said the Landrover Discovery was a hired vehicle and inquiries were continuing in relation to that.

He added the victim's purse had been found in the vicinity of the blood and scalp tissue on the A146 and confirmed that officers were not searching any other site in Suffolk.

Detectives returned to the scene of the gruesome find last night with a pathologist in an effort to interpret what had taken place. Police closed part of the road to allow this to happen.

Mr Munns said family liaison officers had been deployed with Ms Townsend's family.

"They are obviously shocked and are trying to come to terms with the loss of Deborah," he said.

"The children are in the care of the family. It's a close-knit London family."

A minimum of 20 full-time officers are working on the investigation, which is now exclusively being undertaken by Suffolk police.

Anyone with information in relation to the case should contact the incident room hotline number on 01473 613588 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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