Woman found dead in house 'sparked fears after birthday party no-show'

A woman feared murdered after she failed to turn up for birthday celebrations knew her suspected attacker, police have said.

Officers found the body of a woman in her 20s in a bed when they were called to a flat in Gossops Green, Crawley, West Sussex, at 10.30pm on Friday.

A 47-year-old man - who is known to the victim - is still in custody after he was found in the property and arrested on suspicion of murder, Sussex Police said.

It is understood police were alerted by friends who started to worry after the woman failed to turn up to her birthday celebrations.

Neighbours told of how police "flooded" into Highams Hill on Friday night and remained there for most of Saturday.

Several neighbours claimed a man purporting to be looking for his daughter came to the flats late at night and asked them for help, although it is understood police do not believe the woman's father was at the scene.

Deliveroo driver Aaron Harvey, who lives in a nearby block of flats, told how his five-year-old son was kept awake all night worrying about the commotion outside.

Police are carrying out detailed inquiries (Flora Thompson/PA)
Police are carrying out detailed inquiries (Flora Thompson/PA)

He said: "Police and ambulances are here all the time, but this was a lot more than usual. We haven't slept.

"First there was one police car, then suddenly loads more flooded into the street, and vans and paramedics. They had bright lights on for a long time."

He said he saw a man who was "covered in blood" being pushed out of the block of flats in a wheelchair which he was handcuffed to, adding: "We have never seen him before so we don't think he lives here."

The man was detained and treated for minor injuries, police said.

According to 24-year-old Mr Harvey, a different man who said he was Mauritian came to the flats earlier in the evening claiming to be looking for his blonde 28-year-old daughter.

Mr Harvey added: "He said she had been house-sitting for a man in a flat here for four months. He said no-one had heard from her for about 10 hours and he was worried. He said it was her birthday and she had booked a hotel in London to celebrate with friends but never turned up. I felt sorry for him, he was panicking."

He claimed crime was on the rise in the street and there were problems with the security in the blocks of flats, which are thought to be council-run.

Detective Chief Inspector Emma Heater, from the Surrey and Sussex major crime team, urged anyone with information to contact police quoting Operation Grayhill.

Crawley Borough Council and Sussex Police have been contacted for comment.