Britain probes murder of woman found on queen's estate

3rd January 2012, Comments 0 comments

British police on Tuesday said a woman whose remains were found at one of Queen Elizabeth II's country estates had been murdered.

A murder investigation has been launched after a dog walker found the body on New Year's Day in woods on farmland on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, eastern England.

The royals spend Christmas at the estate and the discovery came several hours after they attended a New Year church service, at which the queen's husband Prince Philip made his first public appearance since a heart scare.

The remains were found just one mile (1.5 kilometres) from the main gate of Sandringham House, the royal residence on the 19,770-acre (8,000-hectare) estate.

Queen Elizabeth, 85, and Prince Philip, 90, are currently in residence at the house.

Detective Chief Inspector Jes Fry, of Norfolk Constabulary, said the inquiry was in its early stages but the body appeared to have been there for some time. "We are at the very early stages of the investigation and it could be a complex inquiry," he said at a news conference near the scene.

"The circumstances suggest this is a murder case and we are looking at missing persons reports and cold cases both locally and nationwide."

The identity of the victim was unknown, as was her age or whether she was murdered at the scene or taken there after being killed, he said.

Forensic experts were carrying out a detailed search of the area and a post-mortem was due to take place later on Tuesday, police said.

The news will add to an already tumultuous festive period for the royals after Prince Philip suffered his most serious health scare yet.

The prince was taken to hospital from Sandringham by helicopter on December 23 after complaining of chest pains and underwent emergency heart surgery before being discharged four days later.

But he seemed in good spirits despite the scare, walking to church on Sunday and smiling when greeted by about 300 well-wishers who had gathered outside.

Sandringham House is set in 24 hectares (59 acres) of gardens and is open to the public when the royals are not in residence.

It has been the private home for four generations of British monarchs since 1862. King George V, the queen's grandfather, famously called it "dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere in the world."

Around half of the estate is let to farm tenants, with much of the remainder used for forestry. The estate also contains two studs, a fruit farm and a country park.

Queen Elizabeth's Buckingham Palace office declined to comment.

© 2012 AFP

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