Father is questioned after girl's body found

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The Independent Online

Police have been given more time to question the father of a 19-year-old woman whose skeletal remains were found in woodland in a seaside town.

The man, 45, was held on suspicion of murder after medical records were used to establish that the remains were those of Victoria Couchman. Detectives were granted a further 36 hours, until 11.22pm tonight, to question their suspect as a thorough search was carried out in Redgeland Wood in the Queensway area of Hastings, East Sussex.

Inspector Becky Newman said yesterday: "Police investigating the discovery of human remains found in Redgeland Wood believe they have established the identity of the victim. From medical records, it is believed she was Victoria Couchman, 19 years of age, from an address in the local area."

Children playing in the wood, near the Wishing Tree Reservoir, found a human skull last Monday. Further forensic searches revealed other remains, including a pelvic bone, upper left leg and tibia, which were discovered near each other and did not appear to be buried.

A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said: "From what we have uncovered so far, Victoria Couchman was never reported as a missing person, nor is she on any missing persons' register. We have never had any previous suspects, so we consider ourselves to be at the very start point of the investigations. We are also unable to ascertain the length of period she had not been seen."

On Friday, police said about 90 per cent of the skeleton had been recovered and the bones were degraded. Initially, investigators wrongly believed the remains had been in the wood for up to 10 years. Details of how Miss Couchman died are still uncertain. Detective Chief Inspector Adam Hibbert, leading the investigation, said: "This is a significant breakthrough in this enquiry. It is is now vital for us to establish how Victoria died and came to be in Redgeland Wood."

One piece of information under consideration is that her upper left leg had been broken and surgically pinned.

Local inspector Heather Keating said: "This is a tragedy for the family and we will be working with them and the wider community to establish what happened."

She appealed for anyone with further information to come forward, and said high-visibility police patrols would be in the area to reassure residents.