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Graduate killed before car fire

A university graduate whose body was found in a burning car was likely to have been killed earlier and placed in the vehicle before it was set on fire, police have revealed.

Catherine Wells-Burr was discovered in her red Ford Focus near Ilminster, Somerset last week by firefighters. The 23-year-old's boyfriend Rafal Piotr Nowak and his former partner Anna Julia Lagwinowicz have been charged with conspiracy to murder Miss Wells-Burr.

Her parents, Jayne and Phil, and sister Leanne spoke of their shock at how the investigation has developed.

"Our beautiful Catherine was inspirational to so many people and touched their hearts," they said in a statement released by police. "We are so shocked, devastated and disappointed by the recent developments. Our aim is now to seek justice for Catherine."

Avon and Somerset Police have appealed for witnesses, describing her death as "tragic and brutal".

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Crisp, who is leading the investigation, said: "We are in possession of information that leads us to strongly suspect that Catherine didn't die in the fire," he said.

"We believe she was murdered in the early hours of last Wednesday morning and she was transported to the scene of the fire, which was lit at about 6am. So we are really keen to speak to anybody who may have seen Catherine's car, which was also transported at the same time.

"We think potentially that car was in the company of another vehicle around the Chard area in the very early hours, travelling around Chard along the A358 to Ashill. If anybody sighted that red Ford Focus by itself or with another vehicle, I am really keen to speak to them."

Polish nationals Nowak, 31, and Lagwinowicz, 32, have been remanded in custody to appear at Bristol Crown Court on October 9. They are accused, between May 1 and September 13, of conspiring with others to murder Miss Wells-Burr.

A 38-year-old man arrested in connection with the inquiry has been released on police bail pending further inquiries, an Avon and Somerset Police spokeswoman said.