New forensic clues in Cornwall murder case

From Devon & Cornwall Police website:

Detectives investigating the murder of Cornish mum Linda ‘Lyn’ Bryant say they have significant new DNA evidence as a major 20th anniversary public appeal is launched.

Lyn, 40, was killed on Tuesday 20 October 1998 as she walked the family dog in quiet country lanes near her home in Ruan High Lanes on The Roseland.

Her body was found in a gateway of a field on an unclassified road between Ruan High Lanes Methodist Chapel and Treviles Manor. She had been stabbed a number of times in a prolonged attack.

Devon and Cornwall Police has launched a major public appeal for information on the 20th anniversary of her death as part of the ongoing investigation into her murder.

They are calling on people to come forward with critical information that they may have withheld at the time, either due to divided loyalty, half suspicions or simply not thought relevant at the time.

A £10,000 reward has also been offered by independent charity Crimestoppers for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of Lyn’s killer.

The death of popular mum-of-two is one of the largest and longest running unsolved murder enquiries carried out by the Force.

Since 1998 there have been several investigative and forensic reviews to keep pace with scientific advances.

In 2015 detectives went back to basics for a full forensic review of the case, examining hundreds of key exhibits from the case with forensic scientists.

This brought about a critical breakthrough thanks to modern scientific techniques – a new partial DNA profile believed to belong to Lyn’s killer.

Since October 2016 officers have been retaking DNA samples from people in the local area and across the UK. Some are selected from the National DNA Database while others are being drawn from the 6,000 individuals who gave DNA to the original enquiry.

All 6,000 are being systematically reviewed and new DNA samples are being taken from some to check them against the partial profile. Some 130-140 people have been tested so far.

Senior Investigating Officer Stuart Ellis, a retired detective inspector from the Force’s Major Crime Team in Bodmin, said a name suggested by the public could now be the vital piece of the puzzle needed to catch and bring Lyn’s killer to justice.

“We always review cases to see if there is any new science that can help us move the case forward. This is exactly what we did with the murder of Lyn Bryant,” he said. “The discovery of this partial DNA profile is an extremely significant step forward.

“All we need now from the public is a name. It could be someone who you have spoken to us about before or maybe someone who has never come into the enquiry. Twenty years is a long time and allegiances change. Now is the time to come forward because if we do get a name we can actually do something with it.”

In 1998 police pieced together Lyn’s final movements and witnesses reported critical sightings of three unknown men in the vicinity at the time.

A man speaking with Lyn at the chapel, a bearded man with a white car-derived van, and a man walking in a nearby field. The vehicle has never been traced and all three men have not come forward or been identified.

White van sighting

On the morning of her death Mrs Bryant went to work as a cleaner at a local house as usual. Afterwards she briefly visited her parents who lived nearby before returning home.

Around 12.45pm, she drove her grey Ford Sierra to former Harris Garage at Tregony but they were out of fuel.

She drove onto Chenoweth garage at Ruan High Lanes and bought fuel, milk and a few groceries.

While there a scruffy white car-derived van driven by an unknown bearded man was seen entering the forecourt. A similar vehicle had been seen in the area in previous days but neither the man nor the vehicle was known to locals.

More than 6,700 white car-derived vans have been traced and eliminated over the course of the investigation.

Mr Ellis said: “The man was described as having a full scruffy beard. Why has he never come forward? If anyone has any information about that van and driver then we would still very much like to hear about it.”

The man at the chapel

Lyn returned home after the garage and had lunch with her 19-year-old daughter Erin. They had a chat about Lyn’s upcoming 41st birthday and watched Emmerdale.

Just after 1.30pm Lyn set out on her regular walk with Jay, the family’s tan and cream-coloured pet lurcher. She took her usual and often-walked circular route beginning at Ruan Lane directly opposite her home.

Due to wet weather she was wearing a brown Barbour-style wax jacket, a blue jumper, jeans and walking boots; she walked the dog habitually every afternoon, whatever the weather.

Several people who knew Lyn saw her in the quiet lane heading towards Ruan High Lanes Methodist Chapel, now a private home.

A motorist passed by between 1.45pm and 2pm and spotted Lyn talking to a clean-shaven man at the junction by the chapel.

Mr Ellis added: “The man was in his 30s but had no other distinguishing features. That was probably the last time that Lyn was seen alive by anybody. Despite repeated appeals and high-profile media coverage of this case this man has never come forward, and this is highly unusual.”

Lyn’s body found

A short time later at 2.30pm Lyn’s body was found in the field gateway by a woman driving up the lane from her holiday stay at the manor. She immediately raised help and returned with a local farmer who recognised the body as that of Linda Bryant.

Police and ambulance were called at 2.34pm and the air ambulance arrived at 2.50pm but Lyn died at the scene.

Stuart Ellis added: “There had been no attempt to conceal her body, she was left lying in the gateway. What the witnesses saw when they found Lyn’s body must have been horrific. It was a scene I am sure that has stayed with them for the rest of their lives.

“Lyn was stabbed several times by her attacker. She had knife wounds to her back and neck, and she was stabbed fatally in the chest. We know that she must have fought against her attacker; she had injuries to her face and her clothing was disturbed. I think it is a fair conclusion to assume this was a sexually-motivated murder.

“The weapon was a single-edged blade, probably a penknife or a small kitchen knife. This weapon has never been found. Does anyone remember someone who carried such a knife and was acting suspiciously at the time of the murder? If so, pick up the phone and call us.”

The man in the field

The next critical witness sighting was between 2.45pm and 3pm.

Mr Ellis added: “Another local farmer saw a man walking across the field near to the scene. This was a very unusual occurrence as this field does not have a footpath and in the farmer’s experience was not used by any walkers.

“He was wearing normal clothes and shoes which again is very odd. Was that man connected to Lyn’s murder and why was he walking across the field? Was it the same man from the chapel?

Blue fibres

A vital piece of evidence was the presence of vivid blue polyester cotton mix fibres found on Lyn’s body.

Said Mr Ellis. “We have never been able to match them to a specific garment but we know they are fairly commonly used in polo shirts and sweatshirts. They are alien to Lyn and anything in her home so it is a fair conclusion that those fibres were left by her attacker.

“Lyn must have spent some time in contact with her attacker, there would have been a struggle and the attacker must have had blood on his clothing. The gateway was muddy at the time and Lyn’s clothing was mud-splattered. It is very likely that the person responsible would have been in the same condition.

“Anyone who was in that unusual and isolated area and returned home in any kind of different state with mud or blood on their clothes, anxious or not really wanting to speak about what had happened to them – that would be the kind of person we would be interested in finding.”

The glasses

Since the murder officers had searched for Lyn’s missing tortoiseshell glasses which she was wearing at the time of her death.

Four months after the murder, on 2 February 1999, the glasses reappeared in the gateway where she was killed. They were sitting on top of the mud.

“The crime scene was subject to a fingertip search and it was very unlikely that they were missed,” said Mr Ellis. “Why were those glasses back in that gateway some months later? They could only have been there for a short period of time because they were on top of the mud. Were they found by somebody and returned to the scene or were they put there by the murderer?”

Local connection

The investigation team is convinced that the offender has a local connection due to the murder location.

Mr Ellis added: “It is a particularly remote part of Cornwall – it was then and still is today. The route that Lyn took for her last walk was off the A3708 Tregony to St Mawes main road and into a really quiet area of the countryside. It is not an area that you would expect someone to stumble upon. It is more likely that someone had a reason to be there, whether through work, family or another connection. You would not expect someone to wander into that area unexpectedly. This leads us to believe that the person responsible for Lyn’s murder knew the area or had some local connection to it.”

The murder had an enormous impact on the close-knit community of Ruan High Lanes and prompted a huge murder enquiry named Operation Grenadine which has continued for 20 years.

The span of the enquiry has been vast with 1,600 people traced to establish their whereabouts at the time, 7,884 statements taken, 3,144 house-to-house forms completed with local people and 6,573 vehicles traced and eliminated.

All males aged 14-70 and living within a one-mile radius of the murder were traced and their movements on and around 20 October 1998 investigated. Officers traced and spoke to all males who had passed within a one-mile radius of the scene between 9am and 4pm on the day of the murder

There have been three suspects who have all been eliminated from the investigation.

The death of Lyn Bryant shook the local community where she had lived all of her life.

Mr Ellis added: “Lyn was a popular woman who knew so many people in the village where she had lived all of her life. She was a real homemaker and enjoyed family life. She would have felt very safe in that area and habitually walked for miles each day with her dog around the quiet lanes.

“For her to be taken away from her husband, daughters and 10-month-old first grandchild in such a brutal and horrific way is very sad indeed.”

As part of the anniversary appeal police are urging for anyone who has any piece of information, however small, not to hesitate in contacting them.

“I am convinced that the public holds the key to this investigation,” said Mr Ellis. “I don’t know why they haven’t come forward yet but I would urge anyone who had suspicions about any relative, friend or colleague who was acting suspiciously around the time of the murder to contact us.

“This was the murder of an innocent housewife, mum and grandmother, who didn’t deserve to die in such horrendous circumstances. Twenty years have gone by but this has not lessened the pain and rawness of what happened to her that day. Her family has suffered for 20 years, living their lives knowing that the offender remains free.

“If you have any information or suspicions about any person, please come forward and help us bring some peace to Lyn’s family. Now is the time.”

Information can also be passed to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or via their non–traceable online form at

Anyone who contacts Crimestoppers remains 100% anonymous. Only information passed through the charity will be eligible for the reward.

Follow us on Facebook at @DevonandCornwallPolice and Twitter at @DC_Police under hashtag #lynbryantmurder

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