Police admitted last week that they could be looking for a murderer in the case of two missing women from Ealing.

It was exactly a year to the day, last Friday that student, Elizabeth Chau, 20, from Ealing disappeared while on her way home from college. Lola Shenkoya, 27, of Swyncombe Avenue, went missing in January this year.

Officers handed out flyers in Ealing Broadway last week, in an attempt to jog people's memories in the continuing search.

But DCI Hobbs, who is heading the combined investigation, admitted hope for their safe return is fading, 'They both seem to have vanished off the face of the earth.

'Both families are coming to the realisation that they could have been murdered.'

Mr Hobbs has even sent officers to Seattle in the United States to trace e-mails, which both women often used, but the lead came to nothing.

A psychological profiler has been called in to build up a picture of a potential abductor and hundreds of sightings have been followed up, all without success.

The Chau family suffered dashed hopes earlier this year when a tip-off came from Newcastle about a student thought to Elizabeth, the girl turned out to be similar looking, with an almost identical name.

Though no evidence has been found to support the theory that the two disappearances may be linked, the last known locations of both girls were just 600 yards apart and the similarities between the two are significant.

Both come from ethnic backgrounds. Elizabeth is of Vietnamese origin while Lola is Nigerian/American.

Both are quiet and studious.

Lola graduated from Royal Holloway University with a degree in Computer Science and Elizabeth was in the first year of a business studies course.

They both used the internet regularly, Elizabeth to chat with friends and family and Lola to look for work. They both relied on public transport, their respective bank accounts remain untouched and neither family has heard a word from the two women since they disappeared.

Both girls had very strong family links and had not expressed any wish to leave home or radically change their lives. Lola, an active member of an evangelical church, had even made plans to meet her sister on the evening she disappeared.

Police are appealing for women in the Ealing area who may have been approached in the street to come forward.

DCI Hobbs said: 'We want to hear from any women who have been asked by strangers to accompany them somewhere or to get in a car. They may have claimed someone was injured around the corner or someone needed to talk to them.'

Elizabeth, 20, was last seen walking past Ealing Police Station just after 6pm on April 16, 1999 on her way home from Thames Valley University.

She is 5ft2, slim, with brown shoulder length hair and brown eyes. She has a mole on her left temple. She wore a dark purple V-neck jumper, a sleeveless black body warmer, jeans and brown ankle length boots.

Lola, went missing on January 3. She was returning home from work in Perivale between 4-4.30pm. She was last seen outside Burger King, close to Ealing Broadway station.

She is black, 5ft5, slim with shoulder length hair. She wore a long black velvet coat, a velvet blue hat, grey scarf, blue jeans and black patent leather shoes.

Information about Elizabeth to 0181 358 1799 and about Lola to 0181 358 1777.