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Woman's body found on Queen Elizabeth's estate

January 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A woman's body was found at the sprawling English estate where the royal family spent New Year's Day. The gruesome discovery was made about three miles from their country home.

The victim has not yet been identified, but police are treating the case as a homicide.

Investigators were seen combing the woods on Tuesday at Queen Elizabeth II's Sandringham Estate, looking for clues. So far, there are many more questions than answers.

It's still unclear how old the victim was, how long her body had been there and if she was murdered on the grounds - or if her body was dumped.

"We are at the very early stages of the investigation and it could be a complex inquiry," Detective Chief Inspector Jes Fry said. "The body had been there for some time."

Fry said authorities were examining missing person reports and unsolved cases around the country to see if there were any possible links.

"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," he said.

Just hours after the queen and Prince Philip went to church on Sunday, a dog walker discovered the grim human remains in a rural area of the estate.

"It's pretty bizarre. Sandringham is huge, it's sprawling. Most of it is open to the public. What baffles me is, why was it only stumbled upon on New Year's Day?" said Dick Arbiter, the queen's former press secretary.

The body was found just a stone's throw from the stud where the queen oversees the breeding and training of race horses, and less than two miles from the queen's main house.

The estate spans more than 30 square miles and is home to more than 200 people other than the royals.

It's not the first time this has happened. In March 2010, the body of American Robert James Moore, described as a loner and obsessed with the queen, was found 100 yards from Buckingham Palace.

The discovery of a body on a royal estate was not unprecedented. In November 2010, the body of Joanna Brown, 46, was found on the Crown Estate in Windsor, apparently killed by hammer blows to her head. Her estranged husband, Robert Brown, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 26 years in prison.

Arbiter said he doubts that the royal family will be questioned about the body.

"I doubt anyone will be questioned really, except the only person who found the remains," he said.

An autopsy on the body was done on Tuesday to determine an exact cause of death. No gunshot or knife wounds were found, but detectives said they're still treating the death as a homicide.

Investigators said they're testing DNA samples taken from the body and expect results within the next day.

Meantime, the queen and Prince Philip are scheduled to stay at the estate until next month. They have not announced any plans to leave early.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.