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Tracker dogs to join attack inquiry

A TEAM of specialist tracker dogs which can detect smells several weeks old are joining the search for clues to the stabbing of Abigail Witchalls.

The dogs, trained in "enhanced" search techniques, will be taken along the pathways through the village of Little Bookham, Surrey, which were used by the 26-year-old on the afternoon she was stabbed in the neck in front of her 21-month-old son Joseph almost six weeks ago.

Detectives hope that the dogs will be able to locate important new clues in an area which was already searched by conventional police dogs at the time of the attempted murder.

The specialist tracker dogs, of which there are only a small number in the UK, were last used in Surrey during the search for schoolgirl Milly Dowler in 2002 who was later found dead in Hampshire.

Two and a half weeks after the 13-year-old's disappearance specialist dogs similar to those being used today were brought in to search areas of Walton-on-Thames.

Four dogs and their handlers will retrace the route Mrs Witchalls took on the afternoon of April 20 when she was returning from the Messy Monkeys mother and toddler group with Joseph in a buggy.

She was followed along a narrow lane and stabbed in the back of the neck, leaving her paralysed, moments after seeing her attacker holding a knife to Joseph's throat.

The dogs, from Dyfed Powys and South Yorkshire police forces, are being brought in because of new information which came to light during the course of the police investigation into the stabbing, police said.

A spokeswoman for Surrey Police said: "Due to information which has come in throughout the course of the investigation, we now have more specific knowledge of the things we would like to get these dogs to search for."

Surrey Police say the four dogs, which will also search the woodland surrounding the path taken by Mrs Witchalls, will be looking for any "outstanding evidence" including the knife used by her attacker.