In Depth

Can new DNA evidence solve Lyn Bryant murder mystery?

Cornish woman was stabbed to death on county’s remote Roseland Peninsula almost exactly 20 years ago

The family of a Cornish woman murdered 20 years ago are hoping that freshly uncovered DNA evidence will help police to finally track down her killer.

Mother-of-two Lyn Bryant was stabbed to death on 20 October 1998 near her home in Ruan High Lanes, the village where she had always lived on Cornwall’s remote Roseland Peninsula. The 40-year-old’s body was found in the gateway of a field an hour after she left her family’s home to take their dog for a walk.

She had been stabbed with a short, sharp knife in a prolonged attack.

The investigation into her death “has been one of the longest-running and largest ever carried out by Devon and Cornwall Police”, says the BBC, yet the identity of her attacker has remained a mystery.

But detectives now say they have DNA believed to be from her killer. The evidence, a partial DNA profile recovered from her body and swabs from the scene, was uncovered in 2016 during a forensic review of the case.

During the original investigation, DNA samples were taken from 6,000 people but these had to be destroyed in 2013 as a result of changes in legislation. Having failed to find a match on the national police database, officers are trying to track down men in the area at the time of Bryant’s death in order to obtain fresh DNA samples.

“It means we can use that [DNA profile] to eliminate somebody fairly quickly,” said current senior investigating officer Stuart Ellis.

“This type of case is rare in such a quiet, rural location - it has always been a frustration that somebody has been able to get into that rural location, commit such a murder and not be seen or identified by anybody.”

Bryant’s daughter Lee Taylor, now 41, told the Press Association that the breakthrough has given the family hope, but urged potential witnesses to come forward with any information to “help connect the dots”.

“I know it’s been 20 years and I’m sure people think ‘Well, what are they going to do now, it’s so long ago’ but they do now have some new forensic evidence and all they need is a name, any information that could help them in the investigation could make a real difference,” Taylor said.

“You may be in a different relationship now, you may have suspected someone 20 years ago but couldn’t say anything, but now actually you can. If you can, please get in touch.”

One of the most notable features of the crime was that, four months after her death, Bryant’s missing tortoiseshell glasses were found lying on top of some mud at the gateway where her body was discovered. It is “highly unlikely they were missed in the search of the scene and they must have been there for only a short time”, says The Guardian.

Theories about the glasses “include that the killer may have placed them there to taunt officers, or someone else found them and put them there but did not want to become involved in the investigation”, adds the newspaper.

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