LONDON – It’s a case that Sherlock Holmes would have loved to
unravel: British police say a woman’s body has been found at the vast
rural estate in Norfolk where Queen Elizabeth II and her family
celebrated New Year’s.
Police are treating the case as a murder,
and an autopsy was conducted Tuesday to learn more about the cause of
death and the identity of the victim.
The body was found on New
Year’s Day three miles (5 kilometres) from the elegant country home of
Sandringham in eastern England where the royals held a New Year’s Day
celebration in rural splendor.
Part of the nearly 20,000-acre
(8,000-hectare) royal estate is open to the public, and the body was
found in a forest at Anmer, a hamlet of several dozen people on the
estate 115 miles (185 kilometres) northeast of London.
investigators in white outfits were seen walking through nearby
woodlands Tuesday, examining the ground in an area cordoned off by
Most of Britain’s senior royals were at the sprawling
estate for the holidays, where the queen loves to celebrate Christmas
with her husband, children and grandchildren. The estate has served as a
private residence for British monarchs since 1862.
So far, there
are more questions than answers about the strange discovery, which has
shaken the normally quiet region where the queen and her family
typically enjoy riding horses and shooting parties.
Palace officials are keeping mum about the murder case, referring
callers to the police, and police have released few details. It is not
yet clear how old the victim was, how long her body had been in the
woods, if she was murdered on the grounds or if her remains were put
there after the slaying.
“We are at the very early stages of the
investigation and it could be a complex inquiry,” Detective Chief
Inspector Jes Fry said Tuesday. “The body had been there for some time.”
said authorities were examining missing person reports and unsolved
cases around the country to see if there were any possible links.
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. “The
body was found by a dog walker and was not underground. At this stage we
do not know who the victim is.”
The Sandringham estate comprises
nearly 31 square miles, making it larger than Manhattan, which is
roughly 23 square miles, according to New York City’s Department of City
Planning. It has two horse stud farms, a fruit farm and employs more
than 100 full-time staff.
The grisly find has further marred a
difficult holiday season for the royal family. Two days before
Christmas, Prince Philip, the queen’s 90-year-old husband, suffered
chest pains and had to be sent by helicopter to a Cambridge hospital for
emergency treatment to clear a blocked coronary artery.
royals’ New Year’s celebration marked a milestone, as Philip made his
first public appearance since recovering from the heart operation. He
attended the New Year’s Day church service at a chapel on the estate.
Elizabeth and Philip remain in residence at Sandringham House, along with one of her sons, Prince Edward, and his wife Sophie.
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.
In March 2011, the body of an
American with a royal obsession was found on an island in the park
opposite Buckingham Palace. Authorities said Robert James Moore, who had
sent rambling letters and strange packages to the queen, may have been
dead for up to three years before his body was found.
The cause of death was not determined.
Associated Press writer Bob Barr contributed to this report.