Brother held by police after torso of 'Eastenders star' is pulled from canal

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The brother of the former EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie is being held by police after a headless torso, believed to be the actress, was dragged from Regent’s Canal in East London.

Tony McCluskie, 35, her elder brother, had said that her disappearance was “completely'” out of character and that she had never been missing before. Before the torso find, he said: “We are going out of our mind with worry. She is a bubbly, outgoing, strong and independent woman.”

Sky News reported that Tony McCluskie remained in custody at an East London police station.  Police had not yet confirmed the identity of the suspect.

Miss McCluskie, who appeared in more than 30 episodes of the BBC soap as Kerry Skinner in 2001, disappeared from her home in Bethnal Green, last Thursday.

Her younger brother Danny joined more than 100 people who had been carrying out searches across east London and handing out leaflets.

Former co-stars Natalie Cassidy, Martine McCutcheon and Brooke Kinsella joined the Twitter appeal for help finding her.

Ms Kinsella tweeted: “Please get in touch if you have seen her.” Her phone had not been switched on since last Thursday afternoon.

A spokeswoman said: “At this early stage officers believe they know the identity of the victim but must await further forensic tests before formal identification can take place.

“Police were initially contacted by a member of the public who had noticed something suspicious floating in the water.

“The torso was recovered by divers from the Met’s Marine Support Unit and additional searches are due to be carried out in the water.”

A post-mortem examination was taking place at Poplar Mortuary as an incident room was opened in Barking. Detective Inspector John Nicholson is leading the murder inquiry.

McCluskie’s character was a friend of Zoe Slater and the great niece of the late Ethel Skinner. Skinner was written out of the Albert Square soap after the breakdown of a relationship with the character Robbie Jackson.

McCluskie was wearing a mustard-coloured top, blue leggings, dark brown Ugg boots and large sunglasses before she went missing. She is also believed to have have been carrying a small Louis Vuitton handbag with her.

Police were treating the death as “unexplained” pending the results of the post-mortem.

Witnesses are urged to call the incident room on 020 8345 3985 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.