Derby

Fresh appeal in Jia Ashton murder inquiry

Jia Ashton
Image caption Jia Ashton was last seen leaving work at Thornton's

Officers investigating the murder of 25-year-old Derbyshire economics graduate Jia Ashton have made a fresh appeal for information.

Her body was found on 13 March in Sleetmoor Woods near Somercotes. She had suffered head injuries.

Derbyshire Police said more than 90 officers and police staff were working on the inquiry.

Police said there were sightings of a man acting suspiciously several times prior to the murder.

'Complex investigation'

A woman told police she was driving on Sleetmoor Lane towards Somercotes at about 1700 GMT on 9 March when a man ran in front of her vehicle and she almost ran him over.

He was being chased by a younger man who stopped on the wood side of Sleetmoor Lane and walked off up Sleetmoor Lane with his fist clenched, police said.

Det Ch Supt Steve Cotterill said: "We'd like to trace both these men. The first man was white, 6ft tall, with a slim build.

Image caption Police would like to speak to the man captured on CCTV

"He was in his late 50s or early 60s and was wearing a black beanie hat, a tan coloured sheepskin coat which was fastened up and the collar was hiding his face. Under his left arm he has what is described as a white coloured A4 sized plastic folder.

"The second man was also white, about 5ft 8in tall and in his late 20s or early 30s. He had short dark hair.

"I'd like to widen the timeframe for people seen acting suspiciously in the area of the woods. We have received information that suggests a strange man was seen several times before the day of the murder.

"The focus remains in the Somercotes and Swanwick area and officers are still keen to trace the man in green and the man in the CCTV picture from the Cotes Park Inn.

"The response from the public has been fantastic and people are continuing to contact us with information and sightings of suspicious men.

"This is a long and complex investigation. The inquiry team is working long hours to sift through all the information and follow up lines of inquiry.

"Officers are still making house-to-house visits in an attempt to gather evidence to trace Jia's killer."

A Facebook page about the murder investigation has been seen by more than 1.5 million people.

A reward of up to £20,000 has been offered to help find her killer.

There was no evidence a weapon had been used in the attack and there was no apparent sexual assault, police said.

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