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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
New killing fuels US sniper fears
Police hunt through bushes near the scene of Wednesday's killing
Police are trying to uncover any and every clue
Police in the United States hunting for a deadly sniper who has terrorised the Washington area are searching for a white van reportedly seen leaving the scene of a fatal shooting overnight.

Officers are also conducting a minute search of the crime scene at a Virginia petrol station to try to determine whether the man killed could be the sniper's ninth victim.


Everything is very similar

Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan
Investigators say it is too early to definitely link the crimes, but a team investigating the killings has described Wednesday's incident as "very similar".

The series of attacks, which have been linked by ballistics experts, has killed six people and injured two in the area around the capital, Washington DC.

Despite a high-profile hunt for the sniper - who has sown panic across the region - police have so far failed, at least publicly, to provide any strong indication of who he or she might be.

And with so little to go on, the authorities are continuing to appeal for people to come forward with any suspicions they might have.

Single shots

Wednesday's victim has been named as 53-year-old Dean Harold Meyers of Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Police said he was shot once in the head. All the other victims were shot with a single bullet.

Witnesses have given investigators a description of a vehicle seen in the area but it is not yet clear if it is connected to the crime.

"It was a white minivan, described as a panel vehicle, with only front passenger windows and no windows in the back," said local police spokeswoman Sergeant Kim Chinn.

The authorities have, however, backed away from earlier reports that two men were seen in a white van near the scene.

Click here to see the sniper's trail

Last week, when the sniper first struck, a witness reported seeing a white van leaving the scene.

The team investigating the other attacks have joined local police at the scene of crime.

"Everything is very similar," said Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan.


My concern about the card is its ability or inability to mess up the investigation

Police Chief Charles Moose
So far, the victims appear to have little in common - men and women aged from 13 to 72, of white, black, Hispanic and Indian origin.

Five of those killed were shot within eight kilometres (five miles) of each other in Montgomery County, and the sixth died on a Washington DC street.

Another victim was shot and injured in the neighbouring state of Virginia, and a schoolboy shot outside his school in Prince George's County on Monday remains in a critical condition.


Though they're strangers, they're part of the community

Israel, USA

Anger at media

The discovery of a tarot card carrying the message, "Dear policeman, I am God" was reported on Wednesday and sparked speculation about a possible new lead.

But the head of the investigation, Police Chief Charles Moose, condemned the publication of the find by the media, saying it could harm his inquiries.

"My concern about the card is its ability or inability to mess up the investigation. My investigators made a clear and compelling arguments to me that that information was not to be released," he said.

The card was allegedly discovered outside the school in Prince George's County, where the 13-year-old boy was shot.

Police Chief Charles Moose
Moose: Angered by media speculation on tarot card
Nearly 200 investigators have been working through 1,400 leads, sifted from 7,500 tip-offs in an attempt to track down the killer.

The reward money for information currently stands at to $237,000.

Police are using geographical as well as psychological profiling in their search, examining the crime scenes in a bid to detect a pattern.

Federal agents have been assisting in the case since Thursday 3 October, the day after the shootings began.

Parents, police officers and emergency workers have been accompanying children to school and police protection is in force at all schools.



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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Bryant
"There is a grim familiarity about the scene of the latest attack"
Sergeant Kim Chinn
"The only information we have on a possible vehicle is about a white minivan"

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