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19 June 2014, 07:07
Essex Police have confirmed that a woman who died after a brutal attack on a footpath in Colchester was a Saudi Arabian student.
Detectives are investigating the possibility the woman, who was in her early 30s, was targeted because of her Muslim dress.
She was attacked while walking on the Salary Brook Trail in Colchester on Tuesday morning (17th June).
Paramedics tried to save her but she died at the scene from head and body injuries.
The victim has not been formally identified but Essex Police said she was a student at the University of Essex.
The force confirmed she was wearing a dark navy blue full length robe called an abaya, and a patterned multi-coloured hijab headscarf.
Detective superintendent Tracy Hawkings said officers were keeping an open mind about the motive of the attack.
But she added: "We are conscious that the dress of the victim will have identified her as likely being a Muslim and this is one of the main lines of the investigation but again there is no firm evidence at this time that she was targeted because of her religion.''
The Saudi Arabian Embassy confirmed Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, ambassador to the UK, had contacted the woman's family.
In a statement, it said: "The prince summoned officials of Saudi Welfare Department and Legal Affairs to consider the appropriate action to follow up the case, stand by the family of the deceased, and provide them with all necessary things in these circumstances, in addition to considering the regular and sound communication procedures with the local authorities concerned to consider the case.
"Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf expressed in a telephone call on Tuesday to the brother of the deceased his sincerest condolences to her family.''
The woman had a brother living in the UK, the embassy added.
Yesterday the University of Essex released a statement saying: "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the young woman who died yesterday, and we are deeply saddened by this tragic incident. While we are awaiting confirmation of her identity from Essex Police, we understand the woman was one of our students from Saudi Arabia. The University is providing every possible assistance to the police.
"We have opened a helpline 01206 874333 to provide support for students, staff and those connected with our community, and we are informing staff and students of other University support services.
"Following advice from the police we have reminded our community of our safety procedures. There is 24-hour security at Colchester campus and our Students’ Union shuttle bus is running from campus to surrounding areas in the evenings."
A 52-year-old man was arrested in connection with the murder.
Anyone with any information should contact the major investigation team on 01245 282103, Essex Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.