Murder hunt launched after mum, 45, found dead in bushes by dog walker

A murder investigation has been launched after a mum was found dead in bushes by a dog walker in east London.

The victim has been named as mother-of-two daughters Maria Jane Rawlings, 45, by the Metropolitan Police.

Homicide detectives are investigating after the body was reported at around 2pm on Tuesday by a man who was out walking his dog in Little Heath, Romford.

Maria’s “distraught” family are aware and are being supported by specialist officers; they have asked that their privacy is respected as they begin to come to terms with their loss.

A post-mortem examination at Walthamstow Mortuary on Wednesday gave a preliminary cause for Maria’s death as neck compression and possible blunt force head trauma.

Police said Maria had been to Kings Georges Hospital in Goodmayes, Ilford on Monday evening.

She left the hospital and made her way on foot to Barley Lane in the direction of the A12 – it is believed that whilst walking on this road, someone may have approached Maria.

Her body was found the next day.

No arrests have been made and enquiries into the circumstances remain ongoing.

Detective Chief Inspector David Hillier, leading the investigation, said: “My team and I are working around the clock, following a number of enquiries in our work to establish what happened to Maria.

“Her family are understandably distraught and we are doing all we can to help them as they begin to come to terms with their loss.

“Now I am asking for the public to help us. I want to hear from anyone who knew Maria and knows about where she had been and who she had been associating with.

“Have you seen her in the area in the company of another person? Had you recently heard or seen a disturbance or struggle in the area but did not think it significant at the time?

“You might have dash cam or doorbell footage that could have captured her – please think carefully and, if you can help, contact police.”

Chief Superintendent Stephen Clayman, BCU Commander for Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge, said: “I understand the concerns around safety that will arise from this, particularly from women, and we have increased patrols in the area from our local policing teams.

“Community safety remains a high priority and I urge anyone who has any concerns to speak to my officers when you see them or contact us.”

A statement by the force said: “Officers are continuing to examine the crime scene and will remain in the area in the coming days.

“Any members of the public who believe that they have information that could assist police are asked to approach those officers, or to call the incident room on 020 8345 3865.”