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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 16:18 GMT
Exmoor body remains mystery
Police at scene
Police have sealed off part of Winsford Hill on Exmoor
It could take weeks to identify a badly-decayed body found in Exmoor National Park, according to a senior police officer.

Police have told how the body was about to be burned in an incinerator when it was realised that the remains were human.

A post-mortem examination showed the body - found on Winsford Hill, Somerset - was that of a man in his 20s.

Further tests are being carried out at Southmead Hospital in Bristol.

We are trying to establish exactly how long the remains have been lying on that part of Exmoor

Detective Chief Inspector Barrie Douglas
Detective Chief Inspector Barrie Douglas said: "There are a lot more forensic tests which need to take place and these will take days and weeks rather than hours.

"Our main priority now is to try to find out who he is and how he died."

Missing persons records were being checked across the country, he said.

"We are also trying to establish exactly how long the remains have been lying on that part of Exmoor."

Hunt kennels

Police have continued searching part of Winsford Hill, where the body lay for several days in a black plastic bag.

A park ranger removed the bag without looking inside and assumed it contained animal remains.

Winsford Hill
Winsford Hill is a popular beauty spot
He took it to the incinerator at the nearby Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds' kennels at Exford.

Staff opened the bag days later, on Wednesday, and realised what was actually inside.

Initial post-mortem results showed that the remains were those of a man aged between 20 and 30, 5ft 9ins tall, with dark hair.

DCI Douglas, who is leading the investigation, said the young man could have been dead for at least two months.

Walkers appeal

The bag had been left on the moor for a few days, but DCI Douglas said people often dumped rubbish there.

It was initially noticed by members of the public on open ground beside Halse Lane.

Police want to hear from walkers or horse-riders who used that part of the national park in the past few months and saw the bag, or noticed anyone acting suspiciously.

Police have set up an incident room at Taunton police station.

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See also:

14 Mar 02 | England
Moor body 'was young man'
11 Dec 01 | England
Life for man who murdered friend
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