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While royals celebrated Christmas, dead body lay in nearby forest

January 3, 2012 |  2:21 pm

Royals in Sandringham. The body of an apparent murder victim was found on the estate.

While the royal family was gathered at Sandringham Estate for reportedly its largest Christmas celebration in years -- Catherine's first as a royal -- three miles away lay the body of a woman police believe was murdered.

Police say tests show that the body, discovered on New Year's Day, had been lying in the forest near the royals' holiday retreat for one to four months. An autopsy was conducted Tuesday.

Forensics investigators were scouring the crime scene Tuesday at Sandringham. Just over a week ago, the estate was bustling with royal holiday activities.

As many as 27 members of the royal family gathered for the holiday weekend at the 20,000-acre Sandringham estate in eastern England.

Amid the celebration, 90-year-old Prince Philip experienced chest pains and was airlifted to a hospital, where he underwent surgery on a blocked coronary artery. On New Year's Day -- the day the body was found -- Philip also made his first public appearance after his heart procedure, attending a traditional New Year's church service with other members of the royal family at St. Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham estate.

The estate is a busy place; it has 100 full-time staff members, according to the official British Monarchy website, and the royals make use of the Sandringham grounds. Traditionally, there have been shooting parties, and the queen is known to ride horseback there. 

But it was a dog walker who discovered the remains of what a postmortem indicated was a young woman, according to the BBC, which reports that a DNA profile should be available from authorities within a day.

At an on-scene news conference earlier Tuesday, Detective Chief Inspector Jes Fry of Norfolk county police said the inquiry into the death could be “complex."

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-- Amy Hubbard

Photo: Britain's Prince Philip, center, and Prince Edward arrive at St. Mary Magdalene Church on the royal estate in Sandringham, England, for the New Year's Day church service Sunday. Credit: Chris Radburn / PA Wire

 

 

 

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