Sian 'probably died of head injury'

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The Independent Online

Murdered Sian O'Callaghan is likely to have died from head injuries, a coroner heard today as an inquest into her death was opened and adjourned.

The 22-year-old personal assistant from Swindon went missing from the town's Suju nightclub on March 19. Her body was found near the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire last week.

A Home Office forensic pathologist is still working to confirm a precise cause of death while Wiltshire police continue to examine the remains of a second woman discovered in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds.

Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher confirmed that Miss O'Callaghan's death was formally certified last Thursday, following the arrest of taxi driver Christopher Halliwell, who has subsequently appeared in court charged with her murder.

Coroner Nicholas Gardiner, sitting at Oxford Coroner's Court, said examinations were ongoing to determine exactly how the young woman died.

"I think the actual cause of death has not yet been defined but is likely to be head injuries of some description."

Miss O'Callaghan was formally identified by Pete Shawe, the partner of her mother Elaine, who had known her for four years.

Today's 10-minute hearing came after Mrs O'Callaghan described news of her daughter's death as "the worst of the worst" she could imagine.

"I always had hope but I still tried to prepare myself for the worst," she told the Swindon Advertiser newspaper.

"It was the worst of the worst that I could've imagined. But they'd found her.

"It was a relief in a way. I would have hated to live the rest of my life looking over my shoulder and looking at every brunette girl, wondering if it was her."

Miss O'Callaghan had been out with friends before she disappeared in the early hours of March 19.

She was last seen alive in CCTV footage filmed close to the Suju nightclub, only half a mile from the flat she shared with her boyfriend, Kevin Reape, 25.

On Wednesday, Halliwell, 47, appeared at Bristol Crown Court accused of her murder.

Miss O'Callaghan's family were not present for the brief hearing, which was held in order to expedite her funeral arrangements.

However, she cannot be buried until Halliwell's defence team have decided whether to request a second post-mortem examination, as is their right.

Outside court, Mr Fulcher said Miss O'Callaghan's family were "bearing up" but added: "It is a horrific trauma for them.

"I want them to have closure and they need to organise her funeral.

"That can't happen until the defence have decided whether or not they want to have a second examination."

Solicitors were given 28 days to submit a request after they were presented with the results of the first post-mortem, last Thursday.

There is unlikely to be a full inquest into Miss O'Callaghan's death.

Instead, the hearing is expected to be resumed and adjourned once criminal proceedings have concluded.

Miss O'Callaghan's body was discovered last Thursday in an area near Uffington, 15 miles east of Swindon.

Two days later, Wiltshire Police discovered remains belonging to a second woman thought to have been aged 23-30, who is believed to have died between 2003 and 2005.

They have been as yet unable to identify the bones, which were found in a field near Eastleach village.

But detectives are confident that they will soon have a complete DNA profile of the second woman.

Halliwell was arrested last Thursday at a taxi rank at an Asda supermarket in Swindon.

Tonight hundreds of people are expected to take part in a memorial walk for Miss O'Callaghan through Old Town in Swindon.

The walk, organised by her friends, will start at the Suju nightclub and end at the Old Town Gardens - retracing some of Miss O'Callaghan's steps the last time she was seen alive.

People taking part will hold photographs of her and will be carrying candles.

Dean Mayo, a friend of Miss O'Callaghan's boyfriend, Kevin Reape, wrote on Facebook: "This is where once again Swindon can come together and become one and show our respects to a Swindon Angel."

The walk will begin at 8pm and end around 10pm.

Last Saturday night 10,000 people attended a lantern vigil in Miss O'Callaghan's memory at Swindon's Polo Ground.

Thousands of Chinese lanterns and balloons with messages of condolence were sent flying into the night sky.

Friends and family also left flowers, teddy bears, candles, cards and letters at the entrance of Suju nightclub.