Grim discovery in the woods refuels rumours

Chandra Levy was done with her gym membership, but she was wasn't done with keeping fit. And that was what probably cost the 24-year-old her life.

After confirming the remains found yesterday in a Washington park were those of the former intern, police said last night the case was now being treated as a suspicious death rather than a missing person case. While officials said further tests were being carried to find out how she died, it seemed increasingly likely that Ms Levy was indeed murdered while jogging in the 1,754-acre park.

The former government intern was last seen on 30 April last year when she handed in her membership at a city centre branch of the Washington Sports Clubs gyms. With her internship at the US Bureau of Prisons prematurely over, she was planning to return to her home in Modesto, California, for her graduation ceremony.

At 10.45am the following day, Ms Levy e-mailed her parents from her Washington apartment telling them of her plans to return and discussing the price of tickets. That message was the last anyone ever heard of Ms Levy.

Yesterday evening, when the Washington police chief Charles Ramsey rang Robert and Susan Levy to confirm they had a positive identification of the remains, found by a man searching for turtles with his dog, they finally knew their daughter would never be coming home.

Police said that close to the remains of Ms Levy they had also discovered women's jogging clothes as well as a personal hi-fi. It is understood that Ms Levy's hi-fi and her keys were the only possessions missing from her Washington apartment when it was searched by detectives.

The case of Ms Levy rapidly became perhaps the most high-profile missing persons case in recent years for one reason – her so-called "romantic" relationship with married US Congressman Gary Condit, whose California district included her home town.

While Mr Condit refused to comment directly on the relationship, he insisted through friends that he and the dark-haired woman were "just friends". No one believed the 54-year-old Democrat and no one was impressed by his slippery and sometimes disingenuous manner. Even when he went on primetime television in a calculated effort to try and salvage his beleaguered reputation, he came across as cold and uncaring. "Well, I don't know that she was in love with me," the bouffant-haired Congressman told ABC interviewer Connie Chung. "She never said so, and I was not in love with her."

Though the police insisted he was never a suspect, they interviewed Mr Condit three times and scoured his Washington apartment, where he and Ms Levy stayed on several occasions. There was no word last night from the police on whether they wished to interview Mr Condit again.

The case sparked media hysteria as well as a series of unlikely and increasingly bizarre conspiracy theories. The discovery of Ms Levy's remains will refuel the rumour mills. Last year it was claimed by some that Ms Levy was pregnant with Mr Condit's child.

In a message she left on the answer machine of her aunt Linda Zamsky, two days before she disappeared, Ms Levy unknowingly helped fire such rumours. "Hi Linda. Heading home for a while," she said. "Don't know what I'll do this summer. And I have some really big news or something to tell. Call me."

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