Murder latest: appeal to find men spotted in woods

nrhn 240311 Efit of man seen near Sleetmoor Woods on the night of Jia Ashton's murder - full body image
nrhn 240311 Efit of man seen near Sleetmoor Woods on the night of Jia Ashton's murder - full body image
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Police investigating the murder of Jia Ashton have released artists’ impressions of two ‘suspicious’ men who are wanted for questioning in connection with her death.

Jia, 25, who worked as a forecast analyst at the Thorntons headquarters on Wimsey Way, Somercotes, was last seen leaving work on Thursday March 10 at 5pm.

NRHN 240311 close up image of man seen in Sleetmoor woods on the night of Jia Ashton's murder.

NRHN 240311 close up image of man seen in Sleetmoor woods on the night of Jia Ashton's murder.

Police believe she was killed as she walked home along the ‘yellow brick road’ which runs alongside Sleetmoor woods about a mile from her home.

Today Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Cotterill, who is leading the investigation announced that police want to trace two men who were seen on the night of her murder between 4pm and 7pm.

Artists’ impressions show one man wearing a ‘beanie’ hat and camouflaged trousers, and carrying a satchel-type bag over his shoulder. A close up image of this man shows he is not clean shaven.

The second man is shown wearing a red hooded top, which is pulled over his head, with boots and kahki trousers. Witnesses say they saw the man smoking.

Nrhn 240311 Efit of second man seen at Sleetmoor woods on the night of Jia Ashton's murder

Nrhn 240311 Efit of second man seen at Sleetmoor woods on the night of Jia Ashton's murder

At a press conference held outside Thorntons, Det Chief Supt Cotterill said: “These men may have been in the woods legitimately, maybe they have yet to come forward due to the nature of our investigation.

“They should come forward to eliminate themselves from enquiries and trust that they can speak to us in confidence.”

Det Chief Supt Cotterill said he believes people in the community, especially those who regularly use the ‘yellow brick road’, may recognise the men.

He added: “There are joggers, dog walkers and industrial estate workers who pass through the woods every day and these images may help to refresh their memories.

“I believe someone in the local community holds the key for us to capture whoever murdered Jia. I’m particularly interested to hear from anyone who has a suspicion around someone they know who frequents the woods. Someone who on the face of it would perhaps not have a legitimate reason for using the woods like joggers and walkers do.”

Det Chief Supt Cotterill also rebuked speculation in a story published in a national newspaper yesterday.

The article alleged police fear Mrs Ashton may have been killed by a fellow worker at Thorntons, but Derbyshire police said wanted to reassure staff at the factory that the force has never made such a statement.

Det Chief Supt Cotterill said: “Articles such as this are disappointing and unhelpful to the investigation.

“Staff at Thorntons have been very co-operative and supportive throughout the investigation and I would like to thank them for that.

“Naturally, we have been making inquiries at the factory because it is where Mrs Ashton worked and it’s where she had many friends. Employees at every level of the company have been keen to help us with our investigation.”