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Murdered young mother was stabbed before house fire

Police have released this image of a knife similar to one which they believe was used to attack Jennifer Dornan

MURDERED mother-of-three Jennifer Dornan was stabbed with a carving knife before her house was set on fire, police said last night.

Officers are searching for the 14-inch knife, which has distinctive orange and white markings.

They are also looking for a man seen leaving Ms Dornan's home in the Hazel View area of Lagmore in west Belfast at about 4.20am on Sunday.

Police believe the man, who was seen walking towards Poleglass, later dumped his grey top and bomber jacket and picked up a red and gold sports top, possibly from a washing line.

It is understood police have not yet established if Ms Dornan was still alive when the blaze was started in her house in a bid to destroy evidence.

A 39-year-old man, arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of withholding information about the 30-year-old's murder, was released last night pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.

Police yesterday released a photo of a knife similar to the one used in the stabbing. They have asked the public to look out for the knife and the man's discarded clothes.

Ms Dornan's semi-detached home was set on fire in the early hours of Sunday, after she returned from a night-out with friends at the Devenish complex in Finaghy.

Her killer is also being sought on several counts of attempted murder after the family living in the adjoining semi narrowly escaped injury when the blaze spread to their home.

The officer leading the murder investigation, Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes, confirmed yesterday that Ms Dornan had been stabbed.

He said police were following "a definite line of enquiry".

"We are appealing to anyone who has come across a knife like this since Sunday to contact us," he said.

"We are grateful to the community for the enormous amount of assistance they have provided in the past few days and would ask for their continued support."

The senior officer said other enquiries "are continuing".

"We are particularly interested in the movements and whereabouts of a man seen leaving Jennifer’s home at 4.20am on Sunday," he said.

"We believe he walked from Hazel View, through Lagmore to Poleglass. We believe he was wearing a grey tee-shirt or sweat top and a light coloured bomber jacket.

"At some stage, we believe he got rid of the grey top and light coloured jacket and obtained a red and gold sports jersey.

"We are appealing to anyone who lives on the route between Hazel View and Poleglass and who has knowledge of any of these items of clothing or the knife to contact us."

Ms Dornan's sons Martin (eight) and Jayden (five) and daughter Abbey (three) are being comforted by their grandmother at her home in north Belfast.

Her partner Martin Smyth is in prison but is expected to apply for compassionate parole to attend the funeral.

More than £15,500 has so far been raised to support Ms Dornan's family.

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