A murder hunt was launched last night following the death of prostitute Jaqueline Gallagher. Her partially-clothed body was found by a motorist in shrubbery near a bus stop on the A814 at Bowling, Dumbarton on Monday. She was the fifth prostitute to die in Strathclyde in suspicious circumstances in recent years.

Miss Gallagher, 26, of Glenallen Way, Foxbar, Paisley, was last seen in the early hours of Monday morning in Glasgow's Blythswood Square, a regular haunt for prostitutes.

In the past five years four other prostitutes have died in suspicious circumstances in the region. No-one has been convicted but police are not yet linking the deaths.

Detective Chief Inspector Jeanette Joyce, who is heading the investigation, said: ``It's vital that we trace her fellow prostitutes and former clients that she may have had. If they do not (contact police), we will be making inquiries to trace them so it might save them a great deal of embarrassment if they come to us.''

The detective stressed that any calls made to the police by Ms Gallagher's fellow prostitutes or clients would be treated in the strictest confidence. DCI Joyce added that bus drivers could also hold vital information.

Ms Gallagher's stepfather, Mr Robert Wilson, spoke of the family's shock at her death and added they had not known she was a prostitute. He also made an emotional appeal for anybody who may have seen Ms Gallagher in the hours before her death to come forward.

Mr Wilson, 41, of Paisley, said: ``Jacqueline was a very fun person. She was always happy and never angry. She was great, a very loving girl.

``Somebody must have seen something. Where she was found seems a very busy road.''

Mr Wilson said that although they were a closer family they had not seen of his stepdaughter since last year. He added: ``We did not keep in touch that much but that was quite normal.

``We certainly didn't have a row. We didn't know about her working life as a prostitute and only found out when the police told us she was dead. It is not the sort of thing you tell your mother. My wife collapsed when we received the call.''

The Wilsons' daughter was found wearing a pink T-shirt and laced up black ankle boots and police said they were keen to locate the remaining items of clothing she had been wearing that evening.

She lived with her boyfriend in their Paisley council flat and neighbours said they were an unpopular couple.

Following a post mortem examination Strathclyde Police last night confirmed a murder inquiry was under way. Anyone with information should contact Dumbarton police on 01389 763311.

Dr Marina Barnard, from Glasgow University's Centre for Drug Misuse Research and co-author of a book on prostitution serialised in The Herald, said her research had shown that around 90% of women on the streets had experienced violence. Up to 70% of incidents were not reported to the police, she added.

She said one way to protect prostitutes would be to enable them to work in safer conditions. In the Netherlands, special areas were set aside for prostitutes to work, giving them some protection in numbers.

She added: ``The fact that prostitution is shrouded in secrecy doesn't help investigations of this kind.''

q Prostitute Diane McInally, 23, was found murdered in Pollok Park in 1991. A report was sent to the procurator-fiscal but no-one was charged. Two years later, the body of Karen McGregor, 28, was found in bushes at Glasgow's SECC. A charge of murder against her husband was found not proven at the High Court in Glasgow in 1994. The body of Leona McGovern, 22, was found in the grounds of Strathclyde Arts Centre last year. George Walker, 31, was cleared of the killing. A report has been sent to the fiscal over the suspicious death of Marjorie Roberts, 34, who was found drowned in the Clyde in August.