By Janet Stobart, Los Angeles Times –
LONDON — There were all the elements of a mystery novel of the type Britons love so well: a wooded area on the queen’s country estate, a neighbor out walking a dog through the trees during the winter holidays, a body discovered.
A corner of Queen Elizabeth II’s country estate of Sandringham, where the royal family traditionally spends the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, became a homicide crime scene Tuesday.
Norfolk county police in nearby King’s Lynn, about 100 miles northeast of London, launched a murder inquiry after the discovery of the body of a woman in the woods close to Anmer, a village on the 20,000-acre area of farmland and woods owned by the royal family.
Authorities said the remains were found on New Year’s Day on the royal estate’s 600 acres that are open to the public year-round and used by hikers.
After an autopsy Tuesday, police said the body was that “of a young adult female” and that it had been lying on the site for one to four months.
“The forensic pathologist believes it is highly unlikely the death was through natural causes,” said a police statement, and “there is no evidence of accidental injury, damage due to firearms or bladed weapon.”
Further DNA tests are expected over the next 24 hours, police said.
Detective Chief Inspector Jes Fry said at an earlier on-scene news conference that the inquiry could be complex.
“I cannot confirm whether she was clothed because, at the moment, only my staff, the person who found the body and the person or people who put it there know that and I would like it to stay that way,” Fry told reporters. “The body was found by a dog walker and was not underground. At this stage we do not know who the victim is.”
Fry said police would be looking at missing-person and cold cases nationwide.
The crime scene is just three miles from the Sandringham house described by the royal website as a private holiday residence for four generations of royalty and the favorite refuge of King George V, the queen’s grandfather.
The queen and other family members were at Sandringham over the holidays. The gathering was disrupted two days before Christmas when her husband of 64 years, Prince Philip, developed chest pains and was rushed to the hospital, where he underwent surgery on a blocked coronary artery.