Second body in Margate may be missing student

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The Independent Online

A second body was discovered yesterday at the house in Kent where police found the remains earlier this week of a Scottish teenager who went missing 16 years ago.

Detectives were awaiting the results of a post-mortem examination on the remains at the terraced house in Margate to find out if they were those of Dinah McNicol, an 18-year-old A-level student from Essex who disappeared while returning from a music festival to celebrate the end of her exams.

The discovery of the unidentified body follows confirmation this week that the remains of Vicky Hamilton, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who vanished in West Lothian while travelling home from visiting her sister in 1991, had been found in the garden of the house. Peter Tobin, 61, a handyman who had briefly lived in the house at 50 Irvine Drive in 1991, appeared in court on Thursday in Scotland charged with Vicky's murder.

After the discovery of the schoolgirl's remains on Monday, police promised to continue their search, saying they had reason to believe that the address was also linked with Ms McNicol's disappearance.

The 18-year-old, who also disappeared in 1991, was last seen in a car with an unknown man after she and a male friend hitchhiked home from a summer music festival in Liphook, Hampshire. The friend was dropped off at junction 8 of the M25 near Reigate, Surrey, and Ms McNicol remained in the car with the driver. She was never seen again.

Her father, Ian, 68, a jazz musician, said he had been told by the police that it was possible the second set of remains at Irvine Drive were those of his daughter. He said: "I have had a call from the police and they seem to think they might have found Dinah. I will be absolutely elated if they have. It will mean we will be able to grieve as a family. It has been a long wait. I always said I wanted to know what happened to my daughter before I died and hopefully I will now."

The development came on the fifth day of excavations by forensic specialists at the 1950s house as police began lifting the concrete patio and digging in the ground underneath. Parts of the concrete floor inside the house were also being drilled and any "shadows" revealed by radar machines were also being examined. It was not revealed where in the property the second body was found.

Detective Superintendent Tim Wills, from Essex Police, who has been leading the operation, said: "There has been a significant development at the site in Margate. Further human remains have been discovered and a post-mortem is being arranged."

Vicky vanished in February 1991 as she was travelling to her parents' home in Falkirk after spending the weekend with her sister. She had stopped in the town of Bathgate, West Lothian, to change buses and was last seen by a witness eating a bag of chips while sitting on a bench after asking directions to the correct bus stop.

The disappearance led to one of the biggest missing person hunts in Scotland. More than 7,000 people were interviewed but the only trace ever found of the teenager was the discovery of her purse in a litter bin close to the main bus station in Edinburgh 11 days after she disappeared.

Mr Tobin, an odd-job man who has lived at numerous addresses across Britain since the 1960s, was living half a mile from the centre of Bathgate when Vicky vanished.

Essex Police said: "We have still got a lot of investigating to do. Even if there are no other human remains here, we have still got forensic work to do."