Now police search inside death house

Discovery of girls' bodies allows families to grieve, as officers vow to stay until search is complete
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Police today move their search from the garden of a house in Margate, where the remains of two teenage girls have been discovered, to the property's interior.

Using specialist radar equipment they have been searching for "hotspots" or oddities in the structure and today began preparation for a possible deep excavation of the interior after completing a painstaking search of the garden yesterday. The current owners of the house returned yesterday to point out structural changes made in the 12 years they have lived there.

For two families the years of limbo ended with the discoveries of the bodies of Vicky Hamilton, 15, and Dinah McNicol, 18, who both disappeared 16 years ago. Their remains were found buried in the back garden of 50 Irvine Drive in Margate, Kent – now added to the macabre pantheon of British addresses that have become the focus of unsolved serial killings.

On Wednesday, human remains found in the back garden of the house on Monday were revealed to be those of Vicky Hamilton, who vanished from West Lothian in 1991. Vicky was last seen eating chips in the centre of Bathgate as she waited for the bus home to Redding, near Falkirk. Her disappearance launched one of the biggest hunts Scotland has ever seen.

The discovery of her body led detectives to vow not to leave their search until they were sure there were no other bodies secreted under the patio. On Friday, the search led to another body being discovered, which police later said they believed from the clothes and height was that of Dinah McNicol from Tillingham in Essex. She disappeared in 1991, on her way home from Hampshire.

Terrible as it is to learn the body of your child has been discovered, if you have spent years unable to grieve properly because the remains of your vanished daughter have never been found, it is welcome news of a sort.

"I can now die in peace if it is Dinah," her father Ian, 68, said. "I'd be elated. If they've found her it will mean the family can grieve. We want an end to it and we want to know Dinah is dead. We can actually have her remains, put her remains next to her mother's, have time to mourn and get on with life."

Vicky's father, Michael, expressed similar sentiments. "This has cast a shadow over the family for nearly 17 years," he said. "Never knowing if she was alive or not, knowing in your heart that she's dead, but still daring to hope you might be wrong. I have replayed it so many times in my head. If only I had picked her up. But she was 15 going on 16, and you have to give teenagers their independence."

Vicky's uncle, Eric, added: "All we are wanting to do is have peace and to get on with putting Vicky where she belongs."

"I can't describe what we've been going through all these years," Michael added. "Not being able to grieve for her and punishing yourself with the impossibility that she might walk through the door. We need to know what happened."

For Vicky's mother, Janette, justice may come too late. She died in 1993 never knowing what had happened to her daughter.

A statement read out on behalf of Nicola Downing, who has lived at 50 Irvine Drive with her family for the past 12 years, said the discoveries had come as a dreadful shock. "We lived in that house for 12 years and had a happy family home," she said. "What they are finding there is just awful and it has turned our family life upside down.

"Moving out of our family home has been traumatic, but we felt enormous sympathy for Dinah's father and what he must be going through. Our hearts and our thoughts are with the families involved."

The man accused of Vicky Hamilton's murder, Peter Tobin, appeared at Lithgow Sheriff's Court last Thursday.