UK
22/06/2014 08:05 BST | Updated 22/06/2014 08:59 BST

Nahid Almanea Murder: Police Seek Man 'Running' Near Essex Crime Scene

Police investigating the murder of a Muslim woman are seeking to track down a man seen running near the scene of the crime.

Nahid Almanea, 31, was stabbed 16 times and left to die as she walked along a quiet footpath in Colchester, Essex, last Tuesday. Police are investigating whether she was targeted because she was wearing a full-length robe called an abaya and a hijab headscarf.

The Essex University student's murder has left other women at the university who wear traditional dress living in fear on campus.

SEE ALSO: Student Stabbed To Death On Essex Footpath 'Targeted For Muslim Dress'

ON THE BLOG: It's Time To Stop Demonising Muslims

HUFFPOST REPORTS: Fury At Tweet For Hijab Re-Think After Murder Of Muslim Student

Police are appealing for help tracing two men spotted near the murder scene.

The first man, who is described as white, aged between 18 and 25, of medium build and with dark hair, was seen running up Hewes Close at around 10.56am on the day Ms Almanea was murdered.

He was wearing a long-sleeved, plain red hooded top and dark trousers.

Police are also appealing for help to track down a man who tried to attack a jogger less than a mile from where Ms Almanea was killed.

The white man, thought to be in his early 20s, around 5ft 7in and of medium build with a narrow face and possibly fair hair, tried to attack the woman in Peache Road, Colchester, at around 10pm.

salary brook trail in colchester

Police search the scene at Salary Brook Trail in Colchester, Essex

Officers said the attack's location and reports that he had a knife mean this suspect is also of interest to the Almanea murder investigation.

Her killing came just two months after James Attfield, 33, was stabbed 102 times on his arms, hands, back, neck and head in what police described as a "senseless and frenzied" attack in the town.

The murders have sparked fears that a serial attacker may be on the loose.

Essex Police have now said that they are probing the possibility that the murders might be linked, but said there is no firm proof they are.

Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Worron said: "We do not yet know whether the murders of Nahid Almanea and James Attfield have been committed by the same person or people.

"A criminal profiler from the National Crime Agency has carried out a thorough assessment of all the evidence in connection with both murders.

"A decision has been taken that they remain separate but parallel investigations at this time.

"However the circumstances of both crimes mean that we must consider the possibility that the same killer or killers are responsible.

"We are continuing to explore this line of inquiry, along with many others, and both investigations are being continually resourced and are receiving equal precedence."

Police have received more than 100 calls from members of the public with information in the wake of last week's murder, but urged more people to come forward.

A 19-year-old man arrested in connection with Ms Almanea's murder was released this morning.

Essex Police have been scouring hedgerows and searching a pond near the murder scene in the hunt for clues, and have drafted in help with the murder inquiries from the Metropolitan Police.

Additional police patrols have been laid on across Colchester as officers urged locals to remain vigilant.