Murder probe launched after human remains found in woodland pond

Police launch murder probe after human remains were found floating in woodland pond: Officers say body may have been there for ‘several weeks’ before it was discovered

  • Body parts were found in Oakwood Pond in Harlow, Essex on New Year’s Eve
  • A murder investigation is launched and police believe the death is suspicious 
  • Officers have cordoned off the wooded area and are conducting searches  

A murder investigation has been launched after human remains were found in a woodland pond beside an NHS hospital on New Year’s Eve.

The remains were found in Oakwood Pond, Harlow, on Saturday after a member of the public reported a suspicious object in the water shortly before 2pm – and it has now emerged the body could have been there for several weeks. 

At a press conference on Tuesday, Detective Superintendent Rob Kirby said it was ‘too early’ to establish the identity of the person found, but that officers were working ‘relentlessly’ to establish the circumstances around the discovery. 

‘Due to the circumstances in which these remains were found, we believe the person’s death is suspicious,’ he said.

Essex Police are investigating the discovery of human remains found next to an NHS hospital

Officers were called to Fourth Avenue shortly before 2pm on Saturday December 31

‘Our investigation is in the early stages and we have a large team of dedicated officers working around the clock on it.

‘This person is someone’s loved one, someone’s family member, and they will have questions about how and why they were killed. 

‘We are committed to finding out what happened, and who is responsible, and will work relentlessly to bring those responsible to justice.’

Mr Kirby declined to disclose what body parts had been found. 

Forensic tests are due to take place this week, which will determine characteristics such as the age, gender and ethnicity of the victim.

He said: ‘At this stage, it is too early to be able to identify who the victim is, and that includes things such as the sex and ethnicity of the victim. Some witnesses have indicated that the human remains have been there for some time.’

Pressed on if this meant days, weeks or months, he said: ‘I think the indication is several weeks, currently.’

December 31 was the first time Essex Police received a call from a worried member of public about the remains in the water next to Princess Alexandra Hospital

A cordon has been in place around the pond since the remains were found, with the investigation being led by Essex and Kent Serious Crime Directorate.

Searches around the area in Fourth Avenue may include draining a pond as specialist officers search for ‘potentially crucial’ evidence, Mr Kirby said.

There will be an increased police presence in the area ‘for several days to come’ due to the ‘complex’ operation of draining the pond.

The detective said police are unsure at this stage if the human remains are linked to a missing person’s case. 

‘We will always contact organisations particularly those responsible for managing missing persons,’ he said, adding: ‘We are keeping a really open mind as to how the remains ended up there.’

Asked in what time frame police expect to get forensic results back, he said: ‘Hopefully we should get some forensic test results by the end of the week.

‘As soon as we’ve identified the victim then we are in a much better place.’

‘We are working relentlessly to make sure those responsible are brought to justice,’ he added.

 Police were seen cutting back vegetation as teams investigated the pond area

Detective Chief Inspector Antony Alcock of Essex Police said the investigation was currently in its ‘early stages’ 

December 31 was the first time Essex Police received a call from a worried member of public about the remains in the water next to Princess Alexandra Hospital. 

But a local dog walker claimed that he had seen something in the water next to Princess Alexandra Hospital around two days earlier.

The man, who asked not to be named, said: ‘Who knows how long they were there for. We had a lot of snow here before Christmas and the pond was completely frozen over so the remains could have been hidden under the ice and then come to the surface.’

The man explained he did not report it because he believed it must have been ‘a couple of old bags’. Then the alarm was raised to police on Saturday.

Another local resident added: ‘It is shocking news. This area is a beautiful spot and there are always people walking around.’

The pond, fed by an underground spring, is believed to date back to the 12th century when it supplied fish for a local monastery.

It is now a popular spot for fishermen and has jetties and wooden platforms for the use of anglers.

Anyone with information or footage relating to the incident is urged to contact Essex Police, quoting incident 582 of December 31. 

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