New Lead In Heather Barnett Case

20 March 2010, 07:54 | Updated: 20 March 2010, 08:17

The brother of a murdered Bournemouth mum has spoken of his hope that her killer will be found, after the discovery of a body in Italy.

Ben Barnett, whose sister Heather was killed in 2002, believes there might be connections between his sister's murder and that of the young girl in Italy.

Danilo Restivo, 38, has previously been arrested over the ritualistic killing of his neighbour Heather Barnett in Bournemouth, Dorset and he was linked with the disappearance of a 16-year-old girl Elisa Claps in 1993 in Potenza, Italy.

A body, thought to be Elisa's, was this week discovered in the roof of a church in the town in southern Italy - 17 years after she disappeared.

Mr Barnett said: "I'm just hoping that there's something that they find with Elisa's body that might lead us, certainly for Elisa's family, to the killer and hopefully to the killer of my sister.

"The problem is that we have had a series of episodes where there has been fresh hope and nothing has come of it. But of course, I mean, it is an amazing discovery and could produce the clinching evidence."

Elisa Claps left her home in 1993 reportedly to meet Restivo - then 21 - at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity. She was never seen again.

This week workmen uncovered a mummified body and members of Claps family have identified items found with the corpse.

DNA testing is being carried out to confirm the identity of the body.

Dorset police say that they are "utilising the latest advances in DNA genetic profiling" in the hunt for the killer.

Restivo has always denied any involvement in the crimes and has never been charged with either murder.

Heather Barnett's battered body was discovered by her young children as they returned home from school. Her children, Terry 14 and Caitlin, 11, ran from the house after seeing their butchered mother and Caitlin was screaming: "Mummy's been cut up."

The killer had battered her about the head with a hammer and stabbed her. He then performed an amateur mastectomy, after which he carefully arranged her breasts either side of her head.

The victim's ex-husband David Marsh was arrested in connection with the murder but was released without charge.

Detectives then turned their attention to Restivo and arrested him. They linked the crimes not only because of Restivo, but also because of mystery hair that the killer had placed in Heather Barnett's hand.

Women in Bournemouth around the time of the murder recall having their hair cut by a stranger on busses and police appealed for them to come forward. Women in Potenza also recall their hair being cut by a stranger at the time Elisa Claps disappeared.

Dorset police travelled to Italy to interview those women, but there has been no scientific evidence to take the investigations forward.

But hope has now emerged after the body was discovered in Italy and Dorset police have confirmed they were liaising with Interpol and Italian police.

A spokesman said: "The Heather Barnett murder investigation is never closed and Dorset Police remains as resolute and committed to catching her brutal killer as we were in the days and weeks after Heather's tragic death.

"This is an unusual murder case and the professional and focussed investigation continues to be a challenge.

"We have been following several lines of specific, detailed and continuing enquiry. We have also been liaising closely with Interpol and the Italian police.

"Dorset Police has been made aware of the discovery of a body in the church at Potenza on Wednesday, 17 March 2010, which is believed to be that of missing Italian teenager Elisa Claps."