House of Death: Police widen hunt as ninth body found: Marianne Macdonald reports on new developments in the harrowing search for more human remains

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POLICE involved in the Gloucester mass killings inquiry widened their hunt yesterday, after finding a ninth body at the house in Cromwell Street.

Officers began operating a radar scanner in fields outside the village of Much Marcle, near Hereford, where Frederick West, 52, the owner of the Gloucester house, lived as a child. Mr West has been charged with the murder of three victims recovered from the Gloucester house.

It is the first time the hunt for victims has shifted from 25 Cromwell Street, although last night police resumed their search of the garden at the Gloucester property, using a ground penetrating radar device for the first time outside the building. During earlier excavation operations it was used to pinpoint burial sites in the cellar.

The radar device, developed to detect mines left after the Falklands war, was being used on the area of the garden contractors had begun infilling on Tuesday. It is not known whether the renewed search is the result of new information given by Mr West.

Earlier, the Gloucestershire Police spokeswoman, Hilary Allison, said that the scanner had proved so successful at identifying the burial places of remains at Cromwell Street that police had decided to use it again in the fields at Much Marcle.

'But we would stress there is no intention to excavate the site at Kempley today. We are simply making use of this equipment, while the opportunity arises, to give us an indication as to whether there are areas to explore,' she added.

It is the first time the device has been used in a murder inquiry.

Yesterday, the remains of another victim were exhumed from the cellar of 25 Cromwell Street, where eight sets of human remains have been found since digging began 15 days ago.

Police said that it was too early to say whether the newly-discovered body was female, as the others have been. 'It is too early yet to speculate on whether the remains are those of a male or female. They will stay in the house until the Home Office pathologist, Professor Bernard Knight, is able to visit the scene, which we hope will be tomorrow (Thursday),' a police statement said.

The statement also warned that speculation in the press about how the women died - some have claimed strangulation, others that bodies had been dismembered - was premature: 'We would stress that we have no forensic evidence to indicate cause of death at this time. The forensic examination of remains will be a lengthy and complex process due to the number of remains we have found.'

Mr West ran the Cromwell Street house in the backstreets of the city as a cheap bed-and-breakfast hotel. He has been charged with the murders of the first three women whose bodies were found there - one being that of his 16-year-old daughter Heather - and is being intensively interviewed by detectives at Gloucester police station.

Yesterday afternoon, police also began the work of pumping concrete into the cellar of 25 Cromwell Street, which experts fear has been structurally undermined by the excavations. The ready-mixed concrete was pumped into the house using a chute at the side of the property, an operation watched avidly by more than 100 onlookers and neighbours hanging out of windows.