Page last updated at 18:52 GMT, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 19:52 UK

Mother's body found in woodland

Heather Wardle and James Hughes

Police searching for a mother and her disabled son have confirmed a body found in woodland is that of the missing woman.

Mother-of-four Heather Wardle, 39, of Redditch, Worcestershire, went missing on Friday evening.

Son James Hughes is 22 but has the mental age of an 18-month-old. Police said he was still unaccounted for.

Police found the body in undergrowth near Winyates Way in the Church Hill area of the town on Monday evening.

It is believed Ms Wardle's body was found less than a mile from where she lived with her son. Police said the death was being treated as unexplained.

'Very concerned'

Supt Jane Horwood, of West Mercia Police, said Mr Hughes had epilepsy and other health needs and often used a wheelchair.

She said there were currently 40 to 50 officers working on the investigation, and the searches for Mr Hughes were being confined to the Redditch area.

Supt Jane Horwood of West Mercia Police

Supt Horwood added that officers were "very concerned for his well-being", adding: "He needs his most basic needs taking care of and cannot fend for himself.

"We are therefore trying to find out more about both Heather and James's movements over the last few months.

"We are trying to put together a picture of their lives and we want to hear from anyone who knew either of them."

She said while police had established that Ms Wardle was last seen at about 1800 BST on Friday, it was not known when Mr Hughes was last seen.

'Under pressure'

Mr Hughes is described as white, 5ft 4in tall, thin, with short mousy hair and looks younger than his age.

Officers had been searching Arrow Valley Country Park in the town for the pair overnight.

Police had appealed to Ms Wardle to get in touch, saying her partner, Brian Kirby, and her other three children, the youngest being six years old, were very worried.

A post-mortem examination has been carried out on Ms Wardle and officers are waiting for the results.

We can only imagine what tremendous strain Heather was under
Det Supt Jane Horwood

Mr Kirby had been due to make a public appeal on Tuesday for her to get in touch, but the press conference was postponed in the light of "developments" overnight, police said.

Ms Wardle was said by police to have been "under pressure".

Det Supt Horwood added: "Heather was James's main carer and her family tell us she was a fantastic mother.

"However, looking after another person - however much that person is loved - round the clock inevitably takes its toll and we can only imagine what tremendous strain Heather was under."

She had not taken her handbag or mobile telephone with her.

Officers said the pair had not gone missing before and their disappearance was totally out of character.

Concerns over support for carers
22 Apr 08 |  Hereford/Worcs
Police appeal for mother's return
20 Apr 08 |  Hereford/Worcs

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