A child whose decomposed body found in a suitcase in southern Australia roused the suspicions of police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been identified as the daughter of a woman whose skeletal remains were found in a forest 750 miles away.
The identities of both bodies had long baffled police in two states until they received a tip on a crime prevention hotline two weeks ago. The caller suggested the girl in the suitcase might be a missing two-year-old named Khandalyce Pearce, South Australia state police said.
Police had sifted through dozens of missing persons profiles to try to identify the child's remains - even receiving a call from British police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, who vanished during a 2007 family holiday in Portugal.
DNA tests confirmed the remains were Khandalyce's and police then used blood samples from the medical records of Khandalyce's mother, Karlie Pearce-Stevenson, to confirm that a skeleton found in a New South Wales state forest in 2010 belonged to the 20 year old.
Police from both states have now teamed up to investigate how and where the pair died. Detective Superintendent Des Bray of South Australia Police declined to comment on whether they had any suspects, but said: “This is one of the most shocking crimes - shocking and unimaginable - and another family has been torn apart and devastated.
”Those people that are responsible for this crime are truly evil and must be quickly caught and held to account for what they've done.“
Khandalyce's body was discovered in July after a driver spotted the suitcase dumped on the side of a main road near the small South Australia town of Wynarka.
Meanwhile, New South Wales police had been working for years to determine the identity of a woman whose bones were spotted by cyclists in 2010 in the Belanglo State Forest, about 90 miles south of Sydney.
The forest is infamous for being a dumping ground for victims of Australia's most notorious serial killer, Ivan Milat, who was convicted in 1996 of murdering seven backpackers.
An examination of the bones indicated the woman had suffered a violent death. Investigators dubbed her ”Angel“ after finding a shirt bearing an angelic motif near her remains.
Ms Pearce-Stevenson was a single mother from the Outback city of Alice Springs, Mr Bray said. She and Khandalyce moved away from their family in 2008 and began travelling. Over time, Ms Pearce-Stevenson's contact with her family became less frequent.
The last confirmed sighting of the two was on November 8 2008, when they were seen driving along a highway in South Australia, about 600 miles north of where Khandalyce's body would eventually be discovered, and nearly 1,200 miles west of where her mother's body was found.
There was an unconfirmed sighting of the pair a month later in a shopping centre in Canberra, Australia's capital.
Mr Bray said police were asking landlords, motel operators and caravan park owners to check their records for any trace of the pair, given they had spent time travelling through several states before they vanished.