THEY were treasured gifts from her family.

The gold crucifix on its delicate chain, the necklace bearing her name in silver letters and a couple of gold rings would have been worth little – but their sentimental value is incalculable.

Now, some 30 years after they were stolen from Teresa De Simone by the man who brutally murdered her, detectives who hunted down her real killer are attempting to find the precious items he dumped.

Police teams, including officers from British Transport Police, have cordoned off part of an embankment at the side of a Hampshire railway line where the massive search was this morning getting under way.

Their enormous task, along a sizeable stretch of private land, could take several days and may even prove fruitless.

But it shows the extraordinary length detectives want to go to for the sake of Teresa’s family.

The grassy patch near Portsmouth’s Copnor Bridge is just a stone’s throw from the graveyard where Teresa’s killer David Lace is buried.

Last week he was revealed as her murderer following a fresh investigation by police which saw his body exhumed from his grave in Kingston Cemetery.

Lengthy forensic tests proved his DNA was a perfect match to a sample retrieved from the crime scene on December 5, 1979.

Lace was just 17-years-old when he strangled and raped Teresa, 22, as she got in her car at the back of the Tom Tackle pub in Commercial Road, Southampton, after celebrating a friend’s birthday in a local club.

Lace, who spent part of his youth in care and boys homes, was loitering in the area after travelling into Southampton having fled his lodgings where he had stolen a rucksack.

When Teresa got in her car he knocked on the window and asked her for the time before climbing inside the vehicle.

Lace did eventually confess to the killing some four years later, in 1983, while being held by police on suspicion of other crimes.

It’s believed that during that lengthy admission he told police about the items of jewellery he had stolen from Teresa’s body – and how he later dumped them off a bridge yards from his mother’s home.

However his claims – made a year after Sean Hodgson was wrongly jailed for life – were not taken seriously when police at the time deemed some of his information did not fit.

Nine years after Teresa’s death, unable to live with his guilt despite having fled to Devon to start a new life, Lace killed himself by overdosing and suffocating himself with a carrier bag.

Teresa’s elderly parents, Mary and Michael Sedotti, have been made aware of today’s search but warned that hopes of recovering the items were “remote”.

Detective Chief Inspector Philip McTavish, the senior investigating officer, said: “We now know the suspect’s identity and the fact that he may have discarded or concealed items belonging to the victim at this location. Whilst I would not want to raise any expectation that we would recover any such items after nearly 30 years, it is important that we explore this opportunity as far as we possibly can.

“Careful consideration has been given as to whether this search is a viable process and it is being undertaken by specially trained and equipped officers.

“Every possible effort has now been made to recover items belonging to Teresa De Simone.

“We will provide any result of the search in due course."

• The search is taking place next to the main railway line in and out of Portsmouth, but is not expected to impact upon train services to and from the city.

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