Police investigating the murder of mother-of-two Linda Bryant are hoping the case could finally be solved, thanks to the development of a partial DNA profile of her killer.
The 40-year-old was stabbed in her back, neck and chest while she was walking her dog in her home village, near Truro, Cornwall in October 1998.
Bryant’s clothing had been disturbed when her body was discovered, which has led officials to believe the attack was sexually motivated.
Four months after the murder, her tortoiseshell glasses were found at the scene, which had by that point already been fingertip searched, leaving police certain that they had not been missed previously.
Instead, they think, the culprit may have returned them to the scene.
The partial profile – known as a crime stain – was developed after police examined more than 100 exhibits from the scene of the murder, including tapings, swabs and clothing from the scene.
Addressing the latest development, retired detective inspector Stuart Ellis, senior investigating officer, said he is “as confident as I can be that that particular DNA would relate to Lyn’s killer”.
“The crime stain that we have now found is significant,” he added. “It is frustrating, the fact that it is only now we have the advances in technology that we are able to have it.”
Following the murder, DNA samples were taken from 6,000 people but these had to be destroyed in 2013 due to changes in legislation.
Police are now in the process of re-taking DNA samples and comparing them to the partial profile, with hundreds from across the UK being collected so far.
The partial DNA profile has also been searched on the National DNA Database but there have not been any matches.
A number of reviews of the case have taken place, with one in 2015 resulting in the discovery of new forensic evidence.
Bryant was local to the remote part of Cornwall where she lived with her husband Peter, who she had been married to for roughly 19 years.
They had two children, Lee, then aged 21, and Erin, then aged 19. Lee’s son, Keelan, was 10 months old at the time.
On the day of her murder, Bryant cleaned a local house, had been to see her parents and bought groceries from a garage.
A scruffy white van was seen pulling up on the forecourt at the same time as Bryant arrived in her grey Ford Sierra. The driver, a bearded man, has never been traced.
She returned home, where she had lunch and watched ‘Emmerdale’ with daughter Erin before taking the family’s dog, Jay, for a walk.
At between 1.45pm and 2pm, Bryant was seen talking to a clean-shaven man at a junction by Ruan High Lanes Methodist Chapel. He has not been identified.
Investigator Ellis said: “This man is of great significance as he may be the last person to see Lyn alive.”
A holidaymaker discovered Bryant’s body, lying in the gateway to a field near the chapel, at about 2.30pm. Around 15 minutes later, a farmer spotted a man walking along a field away from the murder scene.
Ellis said: “Lyn had knife wounds to her back, to her neck and the fatal wound was a stab wound to her chest. There was an injury to her face, perhaps where the attacker tried to put a hand over her mouth.
There were vivid blue fibres on Bryant’s body that were not from her, or anyone connected to her home address.
The weapon used to attack Bryant s thought to be a small knife, about 10cm in length, but it has never been found.
The investigation into Bryant’s murder was one of the biggest ever conducted by Devon and Cornwall Police.
Detectives are now appealing for any information about the death and Bryant’s family are urging anyone with information to come forward.
“I know it’s been 20 years and I’m sure people think ‘well, what are they going to do now, it’s so long ago’ but they do now have some new forensic evidence,” Keelan Taylor, Bryant’s 20-year-old grandson, said.
“All they need is a name, any information that could help them in the investigation could make a real difference.
“You may be in a different relationship now, you may have suspected someone twenty years ago but couldn’t say anything but now actually you can. If you can, please get in touch.”
Devon and Cornwall Police’s dedicated incident room can be contacted on 0800 096 1233 and people can also give information through a dedicated website.
There is a £10,000 reward being offered by Crimestoppers for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Bryant’s killer.