East Harling murder: Latest from the woodland scene as hunt intensifies for killer of 83-year-old dog walker
- Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017
A large area of woodland is still sealed off as murder squad detectives continue to investigate the brutal murder of an 83-year-old dog walker.
The married father of two, who has not been named, is from the local area and was walking his two dogs in woodland near East Harling when he was murdered.
He was stabbed repeatedly in the neck and head in a brutal attack on Saturday morning.
The area of woodland, close to the Fiveways junction, has become the epicentre of the murder probe.
The quiet country lane, normally popular with dog walkers, is a hive of police activity and has become a magnet for media organisations across the country.
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Reporters from national as well as local media groups have descended on the scene.
Satellite trucks and cars have been arriving throughout the morning.
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At least 10 police vehicles, including a forensic van and dog unit, are at the scene as well as a mobile police unit.
Farmer Andrew Cowper, a tenant at Lodge Farm, Gasthorpe, near to where the gruesome discovery was made, said: 'I'm surprised and shocked. It's bizarre.'
Mr Cowper, who was not around on Saturday morning, said for many years people had walked their dogs or ridden their horses there.
'It's ever so quiet. I don't know it's just very shocking, very sad frankly that an elderly man out on a stroll can be taken out.'
Mr Cowper said he hoped whoever did it was caught.
He added: 'It's a worry, especially out this way.'
Police have urge people to contact them via an online form such has been the demand from people trying to call 101.
Detectives from the Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team confirmed they are still in the early stages of the investigation and a cordon remained in place at the woodland as enquiries to establish the sequence of events leading up to the man's death continue.
Norfolk's County Policing Commander, Chief Superintendent Mike Fawcett, said: 'I fully understand that residents will be shocked and concerned that a murder with this level of brutality can happen to an elderly man going about his daily business in our county.
'The motive remains unclear and we are appealing for people who have noticed any unusual activity in the area recently. Those who use the woodlands and footpath regularly, especially those who were there between 9am and 11am on Saturday, August 5, are urged to contact us.
'I would like to reassure the public that dedicated teams are investigating the incident whilst uniformed officers remain on scene and in the local area to provide a visible policing presence. We have also set up a mobile police station at the scene should you have further information which could assist us.'
The Home Office post-mortem examination, carried out on Sunday afternoon, concluded that the victim, who was out walking his two dogs at the time, had been 'subjected to a serious assault'.
Police have urged the public to be careful when venturing out but insisted they were not instructing people not to go out.
Chief Superintendent Fawcett said: 'I'm not saying don't go out walking on your own. We've had this attack which is out of the ordinary in that area which has been flooded with police officers.'
But he added: 'This was a brutal murder with no motive on a married family man. We really need as much information from the public as possible to help us with this investigation.'
Concern and reaction
Terry Ransom, from Attleborough, regularly walks his dog in the area where the victim's body was found.
Mr Ransom said he spoke to police as he was concerned it might have something to do with drugs.
He said: 'It's a well known area for drug deals as far as I'm concerned.'
He said about a month ago he saw a couple of Romanian Gypsies clearly 'up to no good' in the area with one seeming to act as a look out.
He said they were there about 40 minutes and then, a couple of days later, Mr Ransom noticed someone pick up a package before smelling it and putting it in his pocket.
He said: 'There's been cars pulling up there and people being handed packages.'
Robbie Starling, who runs the Post Office and General Stores in nearby Garboldisham, said: 'People are just coming in and asking if we've heard any more which we haven't.
'I really just feel for the family of the dead chap and am disgusted that something like that could happen.
'It's a concern for people that there's someone randomly wandering around murdering people.
'I think people like there to be a motive because then that rules them out.'
Mr Starling said one theory he had heard involved fly-tipping.
He said: 'Fly-tipping goes on down there and if he stumbled across a fly-tipper who he said something to and, like road rage, he took it out on him?'
Brian Swallow, 66, who lives in East Harling, said: 'An 83-year-old man. What harm was he doing to anyone?
'The bloke who did it must've been in a rum old state, either on drugs or whatever.
'You see it on the news and never think anything like that is going to happen where you live.
'It's terrible, it really is. Horrendous.'
Mr Swallow described East Harling as being 'quite a nice village' where you could go up bed without locking your door or windows but said this had changed that.
He said: 'People are now going to be thinking have I locked my door or the window or whatever because he's still out there.'
Mr Swallow said there was always people in the area where the attack took place as it was popular with dog walkers.
He said: 'You will always see someone, it's such a well known place.
'Whoever did it either didn't care or took a bit of a rum gamble.
'I hope they catch him.
'Everyone is uneasy at the moment and you can't blame them.'
One East Harling resident who regularly walks her dogs in the woodland said dog owners are friendly and talk to each other but she did not know who the victim was.
She had lived in East Harling for twenty five years and said there was now a major drug problem in the area and she wouldn't be surprised if there was a link with the crime.
Retired Mr Emlyn Evans who lives in Quidenham said: ' I would think twice about going in those woods now. In the past I've walked, biked and run there with my wife. We've even gone there at night with head torches looking for wildlife.'
Eighteen-year-old Libby Wise who helps run her dad's cafe, The Coffee House, at nearby Kenninghall said: ' It's quite upsetting but personally it won't have an impact on me.
'But it will have a huge impact on the village itself and the villages around East Harling Woods.
'Everyone knows everyone around here and nothing like this has ever happened before.
'It's one big community and everyone gets on.
'I do think it will affect people taking their dogs for a walk.'
Mrs Anne Barber from Oliver Way in Kenninghall was shocked and dismayed to hear the news on TV last night.
She has taken her golden retriever Brodie and border collie pup Martha for walks in the woods.
She said: ' I have taken my dogs for walks there and it's a nice safe area with some parts where you can take your dogs off the lead.
I wouldn't think twice about walking my dogs there again because my husband and I walk together and because there are two of us it wouldn't put me off.'
Information to police on 101.