A man speaking with Lyn at the chapel, a bearded man with a white car-derived van, and a man walking in a nearby field. The vehicle has never been traced and all three men have not come forward or been identified, which is unusual given the high profile of the case.
White van sighting
On the morning of her death Mrs Bryant went to work as a cleaner at a local house as usual. Afterwards she briefly visited her parents who lived nearby before returning home.
Around 12.45pm, Lyn drove her grey Ford Sierra to Harris Garage at Tregony [now Roseland Garage] but found they were out of fuel.
She drove onto Chenoweth garage at Ruan High Lanes and bought fuel, milk and a few groceries.
While there a scruffy white car-derived van driven by an unknown bearded man was seen entering the forecourt. A similar vehicle had been seen in the area in previous days but neither the man nor the vehicle was known to locals.
A total of 6,753 white car-derived vans have been traced and eliminated over the course of the investigation but the identity of the man has never been revealed.
Mr Ellis said: “The reason why we are so interested in this van is because a van of that description had previously been seen around the area of the chapel. The man was described as having a full scruffy beard. Why has he never come forward or been found? If anyone has any information now about that van and driver then we would still very much like to hear about it.”
The man at the chapel
Lyn returned home after the garage and had lunch with her 19-year-old daughter Erin who was still living at home. They had a chat about Lyn’s upcoming 41st birthday and watched Emmerdale, broadcast between 1pm and 1.30pm at that time.
Just after 1.30pm Lyn set out on her regular walk with Jay, the family’s tan and cream-coloured pet lurcher. She took her usual and often-walked circular route beginning at Ruan Lane directly opposite her home.
Due to wet weather she was wearing a brown Barbour-style wax jacket, a blue jumper, jeans and walking boots; she walked the dog habitually every afternoon, whatever the weather.
Several people who knew Lyn saw her walking with Jay along the quiet lane towards Ruan High Lanes Methodist Chapel, now converted to a private home.
A motorist passed by between 1.45pm and 2pm and spotted Lyn talking to a clean-shaven man at the junction by the chapel. This is the last known sighting of Lyn alive.
Mr Ellis added: “A witness driving along that quiet lane towards the chapel junction saw a woman believed to be Lyn in conversation with a man. The man was in his 30s but had no other distinguishing features – that was probably the last time that Lyn was seen alive by anybody. Despite repeated appeals and high-profile media coverage of this case this man has never come forward, and this is highly unusual. Who was this man? Can anyone tell us?”
Lyn’s body found
A short time later at 2.30pm Lyn’s body was located in the gateway to a field on an unclassified lane which runs opposite the chapel and down to Treviles Manor.
The horrific discovery was made by a woman driving up the lane from her holiday stay at the manor. She immediately reversed her car back down the lane to the manor to raise help. The woman returned with a local farmer who immediately recognised the body as that of Linda Bryant.
Lyn had sustained knife wounds to her neck and back and a fatal stab wound to her chest. It is clear from the evidence that she had fought for her life in a prolonged attack. Her clothes had been disturbed.
Police and ambulance were called at 2.34pm and the air ambulance arrived at 2.50pm but Lyn died at the scene.
Stu Ellis added: “There had been no attempt to conceal her body, she was left lying in the gateway. What the witnesses saw when they found Lyn’s body must have been horrific. It was a scene I am sure that has stayed with them for the rest of their lives.
“Lyn was stabbed several times by her attacker. She had knife wounds to her back and neck, and she was stabbed fatally in the chest. We know that she must have fought against her attacker; she had injuries to her face and her clothing was disturbed. When you consider the injuries and the way she was found I think it is a fair conclusion to assume this was a sexually motivated murder.
“The weapon used was a single-edged blade around 10 to 14cms long. It was probably a penknife or a small kitchen knife. This weapon has never been found despite the scene being intensively searched. Does anyone remember someone who carried such a knife and was acting suspiciously at the time of the murder? If so, pick up the phone and call us.”
The man in the field
The next critical sighting was made by another local farmer between 2.45pm and 3pm.
Mr Ellis added: “Another local farmer saw a man walking across the field near to the scene a short time after the murder. This was a very unusual occurrence – this field does not have a footpath and in the farmer’s experience was not used by any walkers. “He was wearing normal clothes and shoes which again is very odd. Was that man connected to Lyn’s murder and why was he walking across the field? The man at the chapel and in the field have never been identified. Were they the same person?
A critical piece of evidence at the scene was the presence of vivid blue polyester cotton mix fibres found on Lyn’s body.
“An intensive forensic examination of the scene carried on for months and a number of blue fibres were found on Lyn’s body,” said Mr Ellis. “The fibres are a polyester cotton mix and vivid blue. We have never been able to match them to a specific garment but we know they are fairly commonly used in polo shirts and sweatshirts. They are alien to Lyn and anything in her home so it is a fair conclusion that those fibres were left by Lyn’s attacker.
“Lyn must have spent some time in contact with her attacker, there must have been a struggle and the attacker must have had blood on his clothing. The gateway was muddy at the time and Lyn’s clothing was mud-splattered. It is very likely that the person responsible would have been in the same condition.
“So anyone who was in that unusual and isolated area and returned home in any kind of different state with mud or blood on their clothes, with anxiety or not really wanting to speak about what had happened to them – that would be the kind of person we would be interested in finding.”
Operation Grenadine is one of the largest and longest investigations conducted by Devon and Cornwall Police. Since 1998 there have been several investigative and forensic reviews to keep pace with scientific advances.
In 2015 detectives went back to basics for a full forensic review of the case, examining hundreds of key exhibits from the case with forensic scientists.
This bought about a critical breakthrough thanks to the progression of scientific techniques – a new partial DNA profile believed to belong to Lyn’s killer.
Since October 2016 officers have been retaking DNA samples from people in the local area and across the UK. Some individuals were potential matches from the National DNA Database, which was in its infancy in 1998. Others are being drawn from the 6,000 individuals who gave DNA to the original enquiry.
All of these people are systematically being reviewed and new DNA samples are being taken from some to eliminate them from the enquiry or match them to the partial profile. Some 130-140 people have been tested so far with the vast majority of people being positive and co-operative. This process will continue for at least a few months.
Mr Ellis added: “We always review cases to see if there is any new science that can help us move the case forward. This is exactly what we have done with the murder of Lyn Bryant and we began to find common elements of DNA.
“The discovery of this partial DNA profile is an extremely significant step in what very much remains a live investigation. The work that we have undertaken now gives us the opportunity to look at that partial DNA profile which we believe was left by Lyn’s attacker and we can use that to try and identify him.
“All we need now from the public is a name. It could be someone who you have spoken to us about before or maybe someone who has never come into the enquiry. Twenty years is a long time and allegiances change; something may have been lingering in your mind for a number of years. Now is the time to come forward because if we do get a name we can actually do something with it.”
Since the murder officers had searched for Lyn’s missing tortoiseshell glasses which she was wearing at the time of her death.
Four months after the murder, on 2 February 1999, the glasses reappeared in the gateway where she was killed. They were found sitting on top of the mud.
Police do not know how they came to be there – was it a trophy replaced by the killer or had they been found by a member of the public?
“The crime scene was subject to a fingertip search and it was very unlikely that they were missed in that search,” said Mr Ellis. “Why were those glasses back in that gateway some months later? They could only have been there for a short period of time because they were on top of the mud. How did they get there? Were they found by somebody and returned to the scene or were they put there by the murderer?”
The investigation team is convinced that the offender has a local connection due to the location of the murder.
Mr Ellis added: “The scene of the murder is significant in this case. It is a particularly remote part of Cornwall – it was then and still is today. There is only one main road that goes down from Tregony and into St Mawes, the A3078. The route that Lyn took for her last walk was off that main road and into a really quiet area of the countryside. It is not an area that you would expect someone to stumble upon. It is more likely that someone had a reason to be there, whether through work, family or another connection. You would not expect someone to wander into that area unexpectedly. This leads us to believe that the person responsible for Lyn’s murder knew the area or had some local connection to it.”
A community in shock
The murder had an enormous impact on the close-knit community of Ruan High Lanes and prompted a huge murder enquiry named Operation Grenadine which has continued for 20 years.
The span of the enquiry has been vast with 1,600 people traced to establish their whereabouts at the time, 7,884 statements taken, 3,144 house-to-house forms completed with local people and 6,573 vehicles traced and eliminated.
All males aged 14-70 and living within a one-mile radius of the murder were traced and their movements on and around 20 October 1998 investigated. Officers traced and spoke to all males who had passed within a one-mile radius of the scene between 9am and 4pm on the day of the murder
There have been three suspects who have all been eliminated from the investigation.
More than 300 mourners attended Lyn’s funeral at Penmount Crematorium, Truro, in December 1998 and her death shook the small village community as well as wider Cornwall.
Mr Ellis added: “Lyn was a popular woman who knew so many people in the village where she had lived all of her life. She was a real homemaker and enjoyed family life. She would have felt very safe in that area and habitually walked for miles each day with her dog around the quiet lanes.
“For her to be taken away from her husband, daughters and 10-month-old first grandchild in such a brutal and horrific way is very sad indeed.”
Can you help?
Police are urging for anyone who has any piece of information, however small, not to hesitate and to contact them.
“I am convinced that the public holds the key to this investigation,” said Mr Ellis. “I don’t know why they haven’t come forward yet but I would urge anyone who had suspicions about any relative, friend or colleague who was acting suspiciously around the time of the murder to contact us. Did they come home with muddied clothing or behaving out-of-character?
“This was the murder of an innocent housewife, mum and grandmother, who didn’t deserve to die in such horrendous circumstances. Twenty years have gone by but this has not lessened the pain and rawness of what happened to her that day. Her family has suffered for 20 years, living their lives knowing that the offender remains free.
“If you have any information or suspicions about any person, please come forward and help us bring some peace to Lyn’s family. Now is the time.”
Information can also be passed to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or via their non–traceable online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org
Anyone who contacts Crimestoppers remains 100% anonymous. Only information passed through the charity will be eligible for the reward.
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