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Police seek 'brutal' killer of young woman in burning car

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 14, 2012

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A police forensics tent can be seen through bushes, where the burnt body of graduate Catherine Wells-Burr, 23, was found

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Detectives investigating the murder of a young woman are trying to establish whether she had arranged to meet her killer at the remote spot where her body was found in a burning car.

Catherine Wells-Burr, 23, was discovered in her red Ford Focus, which had been abandoned in a field by the side of a road near Ilminster, in Somerset.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Crisp, of Avon and Somerset Police, who is leading the investigation, said they were exploring a number of lines of inquiry.

"Did she know her killer is the question that we're asking ourselves.

"Did she arrange to meet somebody at the location where she met her death?

"These are the things we are seriously considering. Please don't leave it to others to tell us, call us immediately."

Officers say they are not searching for anyone in particular at this stage but do not believe it was a random attack.

DCI Crisp added: "At this moment there is not a specific person we are looking for.

"We are working on the theory that she possibly knew the attacker. We do not think this is a random attack but we are not ruling it out."

Officers are trying to build a picture of Catherine's social life and are appealing for information.

Firefighters were alerted to the blazing five-door vehicle shortly before 6.30am on Wednesday off the A358 in Ashill, near Ilminster.

Fire crews extinguished the flames and discovered the body of the Bath Spa University graduate inside the wreckage.

Later that day Avon and Somerset detectives confirmed they were treating her "tragic and brutal" death as suspicious.

In a press conference outside Taunton Police Station yesterday, DCI Crisp said: "I am making a double appeal today.

"Firstly, for those people that may have witnessed Catherine and her red Ford Focus arriving at the scene which is alongside the A358 near Ilminster. Did anybody see that car arrive? Did anybody see suspicious people arrive or leave the scene at about 6am to 6.30am on a busy road? We need you to call us. The second part of the appeal is to help us understand Catherine's private and social life."

The post-mortem has yet to take place and detectives are not able confirm whether Catherine died before or after the fire, he added.

Catherine was a member of dating website speeddate.com with the user name cafx101 – after her nickname "Caf" – and said she was looking for 'dating and friendship'.

She described herself as "single" and described her 5ft 3in frame as "athletic" and "toned", stating that she had blue eyes and brown hair.

The fun-loving graduate admitted she had an ex from her past that she considered to be the "one that got away" but said she would not consider contacting them again.

On August 25, Catherine updated the cover photo on her Facebook profile with a picture of a woman covering her face with a book.

Accompanying the picture was the cryptic message: "You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one."

Tributes were paid to the young woman who lived in the town of Chard with her family, and achieved a first-class degree in business management.

Maurice Hicks, head teacher of Holyrood Academy in Chard where she was a former pupil, spoke of his shock at the news.

"Everyone at Holyrood Academy is deeply saddened and shocked to hear the news about Catherine," he said. "She is warmly remembered as a very friendly young person, gregarious and with a great sense of humour."

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