REPORTING FROM 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 British royal family traditionally spends the Christmas and New Year holidays, became a homicide crime scene Tuesday.
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.
Norfolk Constabulary statements Monday and Tuesday reported that 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 local hikers.
Police gave no suggestion as to a possible cause or time of death and provided few details. Detective Chief Inspector Jes Fry of Norfolk police said at an on-scene news conference that the inquiry could be “complex."
"The body has been in situ for some time," he said. "The circumstances suggest this is a murder case.”
“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. More information was expected to emerge from a postmortem and evidence from fingerprint and DNA tests.
The wooded 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 royal family's media office said that the queen and other family members were at Sandringham over the holidays.
-- Janet Stobart
Photo: A 1978 photo of Queen Elizabeth II's Sandringham House in eastern England. British police are treating the discovery of a body in a wooded area of the large estate as murder. Credit: Associated Press