Family of missing Joanna Yeates await post mortem tests

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Media caption,

Chief Superintendent Jon Stratford : "I can confirm that Joanna Yeates' parents have been informed of this development"

The family of a missing Bristol landscape architect are awaiting the results of a post mortem examination after the body of a woman was found.

Police said Joanna Yeates's parents had been "very very distressed" after they were told of the discovery.

Her father said he and his wife assume the body is that of their daughter.

Officers sealed off Longwood Lane in Failand, North Somerset, after the discovery was made by a couple walking their dogs on Christmas Day morning.

Miss Yeates, 25, was last seen on 17 December, when she is thought to have returned to the flat she shared with her boyfriend in the Clifton area.

The post-mortem examination is expected to take place on Boxing Day.

Earlier, an Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said: "It is far too early to confirm the cause of death or any circumstances."

David Yeates, 63, said he and his wife assumed that their daughter was dead and would "like to say goodbye".

He told the Sunday Telegraph: "Of course we don't know for sure that it's her but we assume that it is.

"Nobody else has been reported missing and it's the body of a young girl close to where Jo disappeared. It hasn't been a Christmas for us. I don't know what it's been. It's been surreal, totally unreal. We're just waiting now for the police to tell us what we suspect.

"In truth we feel like we hope... we would be relieved if it was her. We don't want to go to our graves wondering where she is and not being given the chance to say goodbye to her. We assume that she's dead so we'd like to say goodbye... our lives have gone."

Specialist fire crews were called to the road where the snow-covered body of a young woman was found on Saturday morning.

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Ms Yeates was captured on CCTV while shopping shortly after leaving a pub on 17 December

In a delicate operation, investigators have tried to retrieve the body - which has not been identified - without damaging any evidence at the scene, said BBC reporter Richard Greenaway.

Miss Yeates' boyfriend Greg Reardon, 27, reported her missing to police on Sunday when he returned from a weekend visiting family in Sheffield.

Her keys, mobile phone, purse and coat had been left behind at their flat.

Police had released footage of Miss Yeates buying a pizza at a Tesco Express near her home on 17 December, the night she was last seen, which they believed could provide a vital clue.

It is thought she went home, but no trace has been found of the pizza or its wrapping.

Her parents, from Hampshire, had earlier said they believed their daughter was abducted.

The discovery of a body, in a roadside verge, was made at 0900 GMT on Saturday, said police.

Ch Supt Jon Stratford said: "I can confirm that Joanna Yeates' parents have been informed of this development. They are naturally very, very distressed. Our thoughts are with them at this very, very difficult time."

Image caption,
The body was found by a couple walking their dogs on Christmas morning

An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman added that the area had been cordoned off and Longwood Lane closed at both ends while investigators examined the crime scene.

Our reporter said six scenes of crime officers had been examining the road, which is near Long Ashton Golf Club, on the edge of Bristol.

Altogether about six police cars and 15 officers were at the scene, which was not far from Avon Gorge where officers had been searching for Miss Yeates earlier in the week, he said.

Some 30 detectives have been working full time on the investigation and are being assisted by another 40 staff, including uniformed officers, forensic experts and search teams.

On Christmas Eve churchgoers in Bristol were praying for the safe return of Miss Yeates, who was remembered during midnight mass at Christ Church in Clifton.

Her brother Chris had been handing out leaflets and putting up posters around Bristol in the hope of someone coming forward with new information. Speaking on Friday he said the family was "in complete despair".

Earlier in the week his parents made an emotional TV appeal for their daughter's return.

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