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Murder probe: police free suspect

Neighbours have described a 29-year-old Co Antrim woman who died suddenly as a "lovely wee girl".

The body of Karen Hilditch was discovered in a house at Pattersons Way, Carrickfergus, at about 6pm on Tuesday. It is not yet known how the woman from the Castlemara area of the town died.

A post-mortem examination is due to be carried out later today. A 38-year-old man who was arrested in connection with the death was last night released unconditionally, although the PSNI said it was continuing with a murder investigation.

Neighbours said they were alerted when emergency teams arrived at the terraced houses where the dead woman lived with her boyfriend on Tuesday evening.

Pat McCambridge spoke with Ms Hilditch's boyfriend after her body was found.

She said: "She was a lovely wee girl, that's all I could describe her as. She used to call in here to make the odd phone call. My best friend died suddenly on Saturday and I was at her funeral on Tuesday. Then I went out and when I came back there were policemen at their house. Her boyfriend called me over and when I went to him he said: 'Karen is dead, my best wee friend'. I was in a state of shock and everyone around here is in a state of shock.

"To be honest I couldn't believe it when I heard it. This has always been a very quiet area, even during the Troubles nothing ever happened up here."

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Another neighbour, Nathan Norris, said people were stunned by the young woman's death.

She said: "I am shocked, this isn't like Carrick at all, it's always so peaceful, especially up here.

"It's a tight-knit community and I can't think of anything like this happening before. What has happened is sad and you don't want to see that happening to anyone."

Mayor of Carrickfergus Jim McClurg said the town was shocked by the young woman's death.

The DUP man said: "People in Carrickfergus are shocked by what happened and I would appeal to anyone with information to contact their local police station."

Alliance councillor Sean Neeson offered his sympathies to the dead woman's family.

He said: "It's sad that a young life has been ended in this way. I offer my sympathy to her family."

A spokesman for the PSNI confirmed that a post-mortem examination on Ms Hilditch's body would take place today.

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