Page last updated at 15:57 GMT, Friday, 19 March 2010

Heather Barnett family hopeful after Italian body find

Heather Barnett
Ms Barnett was found to have strands of cut hair in her hand

The family of a mother-of-two murdered in Bournemouth seven years ago say they have been given fresh hope that her killer may finally be caught.

It follows the discovery of a body in an Italian church that could be that of a girl whose 1993 disappearance may be linked to Heather Barnett's killing.

The remains in Potenza are thought to be of Elisa Claps, who lived there.

Dorset Police have been to Italy several times to investigate a possible link with the murder of Ms Barnett, 48.

Italian police believe one of the last people to see Miss Claps alive was Danilo Restivo, who lived in the same town in Italy.

Mr Restivo, who now lives in Charminster, Bournemouth, has also been questioned by Dorset Police over Heather Barnett's murder.

He has consistently denied knowing anything about either case.

Hair fetish link

She was found mutilated in her Bournemouth home in 2002 with strands of cut hair placed in her hand.

Her body was found by her two children, then aged 14 and 11, in the bathroom of her home in Capstone Road, Charminster.

She had been hit over the head with a hammer-like object, stabbed several times and the hair placed in her right hand.

Elisa Claps
Sixteen-year-old Elisa Claps disappeared in Potenza in 1993

Dorset officers have been investigating whether there was a possible hair fetish link between Miss Claps's disappearance and Ms Barnett's case.

The seamstress' brother Ben Barnett said he was cautiously optimistic.

"I'm just hoping that there is something that they find through Elisa's body that might lead us, certainly for Elisa's family, to the killer and then hopefully to the killer of my sister," he said.

"The problem is, we've had a serious of episodes where there has been fresh hope and then nothing has come of it.

"But of course, it's an amazing discovery and could produce the clinching evidence."

Dorset Police said they were continuing to liaise with Italian police following the discovery of the body in the Most Holy Trinity church in Potenza in southern Italy on Wednesday.

The remains were found bricked in a corner of a hard-to-reach rooftop garret by maintenance workers who had climbed to the roof to fix a leak.

A Potenza police spokesman said DNA tests would have to be carried out before it could be confirmed the remains belonged to Elisa Claps, who vanished on 12 September 1993 at the age of 16.

The remains found are brought out of the Most Holy Trinity church on Wednesday
The remains were brought out of the Most Holy Trinity church on Wednesday

On Dorset Police's last visit to Italy in October, they took DNA from 15 women who had had their hair cut in suspicious circumstances, in the hope that this could lead them to Ms Barnett's killer.

The women from - Rome, Potenza, Turin and Milan - all contacted police after seeing an item about Ms Barnett's murder on Italian TV's version of BBC Crimewatch.

A Dorset Police spokesman said they had "been made aware of the discovery of a body in the church at Potenza... believed to be that of missing Italian teenager Elisa Claps".

"We are continuing our normal contact with the Italian police and other authorities - and will continue to assist them if and when asked."

In October, Dorset Police also renewed its appeal to find a man filmed on CCTV near Ms Barnett's home on the day of the murder.

They also asked for help in finding the owner of a Nike Terra Part Stormy training shoe, which left a print in blood at the scene.

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Heather's brother, Ben, hopes the new lead will lead to his sister's killer



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SEE ALSO
Body found in murder link inquiry
18 Mar 10 |  Dorset
Murder detectives head to Italy
16 Oct 09 |  Dorset
DNA test hope in murder inquiry
25 Apr 08 |  Dorset
New leads in hair murder inquiry
21 Dec 07 |  Dorset
New hair-in-hand murder TV appeal
20 Dec 07 |  Dorset
Hair analysis 'link' to murderer
12 Nov 07 |  Dorset

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