The search for the missing businesswoman Carole Waugh ended yesterday with the grim discovery of a dead woman’s body hidden inside a car at an anonymous line-up of rented garages used by builders for storage.
The find came just two days after detectives said that they were treating her three-month disappearance as a murder inquiry and had arrested a man on suspicion of killing the former oil industry executive when he flew in to Luton Airport from an undisclosed foreign location.
Scotland Yard said a post-mortem examination held at Kingston mortuary found a single stab wound on the body. Further examinations are expected to establish the exact cause of Miss Waugh's death.
The discovery of the body in New Malden, southwest London, followed the gradual unpeeling of Ms Waugh’s private life which had revealed that a series of people had sought to steal her identity and systematically empty the 50-year-old’s bank accounts of several hundred thousand pounds. A man posing as her brother had also brazenly walked into an estate agency to try to sell her £675,000 central London flat.
Police removed the blue Volkswagen Golf, registration W466 NHL, after the body was discovered on Thursday evening. They appealed for anyone who had seen it come forward before it was parked at the lock-up at the heart of a middle-class area of 1930s ivy-covered houses. Locals said that the garages were rented out by local builders.
Detectives would not be drawn on when or where Ms Waugh, who was last seen at a family gathering in mid-April, might have died. They said they wanted information on the car’s whereabouts since that time. DCI John McFarlane said: “Anyone who can assist us on where it has been since then, or can advise on anyone with a connection to it, should come forward.”
The 47-year-old man currently being questioned on suspicion of murder is understood not to have lived in the houses directly behind the garages. Police set up two forensic examination tents in front of the garages, which was sealed off. Neighbours today said that they had not seen the car arrive. The door of garage number 13 was open today and was empty save for a puddle of oil on the floor.
Nick Crabbe, 31, a fork lift truck instructor at a builder’s yard opposite the garages, said he only learned of the discovery this morning. “Staff here said that the garages are rented out to the local builders. One said that you get people locking stolen goods up in there. It’s strange, this is a nice quiet street.”
Ms Waugh was financially secure after a working life that had taken in both the ex-pat world of the Libyan oil industry and a private life in London that she kept well-hidden even from her family in Durham and Cumbria.
In Libya, she was described as an “enigma” by a former colleague who said she preferred to mix with locals rather than the ex-pat community. She left Libya suddenly in 2008 but police believed that the secret of her disappearance lay with her private life in London.
She had been living in Marylebone, central London, after returning to Britain following an eight-year spell in Libya. She had an active social life and had mentioned to her family that she had been planning to visit Las Vegas with friends.
Ms Waugh, who was not married and whose previous partner had died some years earlier, was secure enough not to work permanently and detectives were investigating whether she worked as an escort as they tried to trace any men who had been in contact with her online.
Ten people have so far been arrested in connection with her disappearance after money was taken from her bank accounts using her bank cards. Other items, including Cartier jewellery, had also gone missing from her flat.
The 47-year-old man arrested this week was originally held on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and on suspicion of kidnap. He remains in custody in south London after magistrates approved an extension to his detention.