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Parents prepare to bring home daughter's body

THE PARENTS of Caroline Clarke, one of two British backpackers missing in Australia since April, were last night preparing to travel to Sydney to bring home their daughter's body.

Police in Australia yesterday confirmed that the remains of one of two bodies found in a shallow grave in bushland near Sydney at the weekend was that of Joanne Walters, 22. She had been stabbed several times in the chest.

Dental records being flown from London are expected to confirm that the remains of the second body, found about 40 metres away with gunshot wounds to the head, is that of her travelling companion, Ms Clarke, also 22.

Yesterday, at the family home near Hexham, Northumberland, Ms Clarke's father, Ian, said: 'We have given up hope of seeing our daughter alive again. The body of Joanne has been confirmed, so we are 99 per cent sure the other body is Caroline. Once formalities are complete we will be flying out to bring her home and lay her to rest finally, and try to rebuild our own lives.'

The bodies were found by orienteers in the Belanglo state forest near the small town of Bowral, about 62 miles south-west of Sydney. The women went missing after leaving a hostel in Sydney to go fruit-picking in southern New South Wales.

Forensic scientists are examining a piece of cloth found near the bodies, which they believed may have been used as a gag. Further tests will determine whether the women had been sexually assaulted. A police spokesman said it was unclear whether the women had been killed in the forest or murdered elsewhere.

Ms Walters was a nanny from Maesteg, Mid Glamorgan. Her parents, Ray and Gill, arrived in Australia last month to search for their daughter, who they said was unlikely to do anything on 'the spur of the moment' and had probably planned the trip meticulously. They identified her by clothes and jewellery found with the body.

Mr Clarke, 58, a Bank of England official, and his wife Jacqueline, were told of the discovery of the bodies as they travelled to their home early on Sunday morning from a family wedding.

Mr Clarke said: 'Our community policeman called me up on my car phone and told me to pull over. He said the police in Australia had found two bodies. It was such a harrowing experience, you can't imagine what we have gone through. Two minutes later we heard it on the car radio, at least we were spared that. He said Mrs Clarke had 'taken it very badly' and was heavily sedated.

'Caroline was full of adventure and did what she wanted to do. She thoroughly enjoyed herself and now we have to look back on the good, happy times.'

Police today will continue searching the area where the bodies were found, which is about six miles from the nearest road. The area is used by walkers, backpackers and orienteering groups.

(Photograph omitted)