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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 21:12 GMT 22:12 UK
Police confirm ninth sniper victim
Police load Linda Franklin's body into an ambulance
Linda Franklin was an FBI intelligence analyst
US authorities say ballistic evidence has linked the fatal shooting of a woman in Virginia on Monday to other sniper attacks that have terrorised the Washington DC area for the past fortnight.

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose
Police are searching for a white van seen near the attacks
Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation have also confirmed that the woman, identified by police as 47-year-old Linda Franklin from Arlington, Virginia, worked for their agency as an intelligence analyst but police said she was not involved in the hunt for the sniper.

Her death brings the number of those killed to nine, along with two other victims who were seriously injured.

As the search for the gunman intensified, police released composite pictures of two white vans similar to a vehicle seen by witnesses near the scene of the attacks.

New evidence?

The sniper again escaped following the latest shooting, despite the immediate deployment of dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement agents.

Sniper attacks
2-3 Oct - Five people killed in Montgomery County, Maryland
3 Oct - Man killed in Washington DC
4 Oct - Woman injured in Fredericksburg, Virginia
7 Oct - Boy injured in Prince George's County, Maryland
9 Oct - Man killed in Manassas, Virginia
11 Oct - Man killed in Fredericksburg, Virginia
14 Oct - Woman killed in Falls Church, Virginia

They closed roads around the Falls Church area, about 10 miles (16 kilometres) west of Washington DC, where the shooting occurred.

The place where the attack happened is particularly busy and is known as Seven Corners because of the number of roads meeting there.

The latest shooting may provide the police with vital new evidence, although BBC correspondents say that authorities have refused to confirm that one witness may have seen the sniper holding the rifle to his shoulder.

There are further reports that another witness took down the licence plate of a van seen speeding away from the scene shortly after the shooting.

"There was some additional information that we were able to get from last night's case and I am confident that that information is going to lead us to an arrest, Fairfax County police chief John Manger said.

Police say they are also continuing to investigate sightings of a cream-coloured Chevrolet Astro van with a broken taillight and a ladder rack on top seen in the Falls Church area.

After the earlier attacks, police had said they were looking for a white van.

With apparently few firm leads so far, police renewed their appeal for help from the public on Tuesday, urging anyone with information about the suspecy white van to come forward.

Witnesses hope

The latest victim suffered a single shot to the head by a high-velocity rifle as she and her husband loaded up their car outside a shopping centre at about 2115 Monday (0115 GMT Tuesday).

Monday's shooting came after a weekend of respite for people in the area, many of whom hoped that the killing spree had ended.

However it appears that the killer may be following a pattern of carrying out attacks during the week and resting during the weekend.

Police Chief Charles Moose, who is co-ordinating the hunt for the sniper, earlier played down theories of a pattern to the shootings, saying he wanted the public to "keep an open mind".

Another possible clue for profilers examining the case is the geographical proximity of the attacks.

The first five victims were killed within a few miles of each other in Washington's Maryland suburbs, and the sixth person who died was shot on a street corner in Washington, close to the Maryland state border.

There have been three confirmed sniper attacks in Virginia - two of which proved fatal.

The BBC's Matt Frei
"Linda Franklin was shot standing next to her husband"

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Trail of terror
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15 Oct 02 | Americas
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12 Oct 02 | Americas
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