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Greek police are close to a breakthrough in the case of murdered American biologist

Several people have been questioned by police investigating the murder of American biologist Dr. Suzanne Eaton and have provided DNA samples, DailyMail.com can reveal.

The suspects were detained after detectives pieced together Eaton’s last movements before she disappeared with the help of two witnesses who saw her in the hours before she went missing.

They were released after questioning, but police believe they are close to a break-through in their investigation.

An 85-year-old gardener and an elderly fisherman have both independently told detectives they saw 59-year-old Dr. Eaton in the village of Afrata, which is three miles from the place she had been staying.

Officers now believe Dr. Eaton, who had two sons, disappeared a mile outside of Afrata as she made her way back to the Orthodox Academy of Crete where she was due to be a keynote conference speaker. 

She had fought for her life against an attacker armed with a knife, and suffered substantial knife wounds to her body, police sources told ABC. 

Witnesses said they had seen her in Afrata, a former fishing village, which does not have street CCTV cameras.

But they are adamant she came into the picturesque village, which is surrounded by cliffs and olive fields and where sheep roam, before turning back towards the academy.

The retired gardener, who asked not to be identified, told DailyMail.com: ‘I saw her and I recognized her from the photographs of her. I also told police correctly the pink and purple colors of her clothing.

‘She was walking quite fast near a bridge and small church on the road out of the village. I was walking and she walked past me. I am sad about what has happened to her.’

It is believed she met her killer or killers on the road out of Afrata and may have become exhausted in the 90-degree heat and through having walked four miles.

She had walked north out of the academy and her body was found about six miles away south of the academy in a cave which had been a Nazi bunker during the second World War.

It is thought she was picked up from the road outside Afrata and suffocated and stabbed her, before being dumped through a shaft into the cave at Xamoudochori. 

Her body had still not been released to her British husband and forensic tests are being conducted to see if she had been raped.

Coroner Antonis Papadomanolakis told local news outlets:  “Her death was not immediate. It is not like in a shooting. There was duration involved.”

One of the last people to see her alive, Katerina Karkala-Zormpa of the Orthodox Academy of Crete, told DailyMail.com: ‘She was in a good mood and laughing as she came through the reception.

‘She played the piano and then went out. She always felt safe here and it was her fourth visit.

‘She felt so comfortable here, she left her room unlocked with the key inside and her belongings.

‘It was a great shock when we heard that she was missing. She used to take walks whenever she was here and I could not believe she had got lost,’ Karkala-Zormpa said. ‘Her family came here and worked so hard to find her. They were always sending emails and on the telephone and helping the search.’

‘It was so sad when her body was discovered but in some way it was a relief because at least they knew what had happened. Of course they wanted to find her alive, but after a week they just needed to know.

‘After she had died, we found out what a brilliant scientist she was and the incredible research she had done. She was very modest and did not make a big deal about her achievements,’ she added. ‘The whole matter had been very difficult and we hope the killer or killers are found as soon as possible.’

She said Dr. Eaton was an experienced and fit hiker and would not normally have accepted a ride from strangers.

Police are also talking to cell phone companies on Crete that the murderer or murderers possibly had on them when they suffocated and stabbed her before dumping her body.

Authorities are trying to establish whether a phone signal was picked up by cell phone masts close to the remote olive fields where her body was found.

Crucially, they have pin-pointed a two-hour period on the night of Tuesday, July 2 when several phone signals were picked up in an area which they believe would have been known to them and few from outside the area.

DailyMail.com previously revealed that officers, in the days after the mother-of-two’s body was found, walked around the former Nazi bunker, talking to Greece’s three major phone companies, Cosmote, Vodafone and Wind, from their own cell phones.

They talked with the phone companies’ technicians and engineers while moving around the woodland and asking whether their locations were identifiable.

A source said: ‘They did this because they wanted to test close to the cave their own phones and co-ordinates and then with the help of GPS mapping and computer data find out which other mobile phones have been in that area in the last week.

‘It is a lonely spot and there is no reason really except for hikers or cave explorers, for anybody to go there.

‘If the killers had their phone, they think that is enough to find them.

‘There cannot be very many people who go there and if that is the evening her body was left there, they will be looking for the owners of the cell phones picked up in the area during that time.’

Those visiting the area found strong 4G signal strength on their cell phones, boosted by two towering phone masts nearby.

It was also revealed that the killer dumped the body of Dr. Eaton, which was still dressed in her running gear, down a shaft, an approximate 40-foot drop.

They did so by removing a wooden pallet from the shaft and dropping the body down where it landed face down, around 200ft inside the labyrinth of passages that pass through the cave. 

Police and forensic officers have carried out a thorough examination of the cave, close to Xamoudochori and their discarded plastic gloves and other debris littered the opening to the cave, which is partially blocked by a fallen tree and accessible only on all fours.

Local villagers said they believed only somebody from the area would have known about the cave, which is off a dust track and then involves a trek through rugged woodland and is not visible easily to the naked eye or from the road.

An olive farmer told DailyMail: ‘This is a terrible thing to happen to that women The killer has to be crazy.

‘But he must also know about the cave. Very few people come from outside the area and know about it. It is far from everybody.’

Another local, who is studying to be a radiologist, added: ‘What a terrible end this lady met. She was doing amazing things with her research and work. I really feel for her family.’

A restaurateur in Afrata said: ‘This has scared a lot of people. Dr. Eaton was here and she was killed. How did that happen here?

‘This is not the kind of place where such bad things happen. People are saying they are scared of going out after 9pm until who did this is caught.’ 

 

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