Man spots 'headless human torso' in pond two days before police find body parts

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Man spots 'headless human torso' in pond two days before police find body parts

A dogwalker believes he saw a headless and naked torso in a woodland pond two days before the police found body parts in the same area.

The man said he just "shrugged it off" at the time but now thinks he saw more than what is being reported.

Human remains were discovered on New Year's Eve in the water, which is located close to the Princess Alexander Hospital in Harlow, Essex, and a murder investigation has now been launched.

At a press conference today, Detective Superintendent Rob Kirby said the remains were likely to have been there for "several weeks".

A local man who was out with his dog before the police arrived thinks he may have seen two objects.

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The man, who asked not to be named, said: “I was having my walk when I saw this white shape which looked just like a torso without a head.

“There was a similar-looking object right next to it close to the edge of the water. My first thought was that it was a naked human torso – but I just shrugged it off.

Man spots 'headless human torso' in pond two days before police find body partsPolice pictured at the scene after human remains were found in Oakwood Pond (East Anglia News Service)

"My dog didn’t seem bothered about it at all. Iassumed that it must be a couple of old bags or something so I didn’t report anything.

"Then on Saturday, someone else raised the alarm and police found it. The second object was clearly a body part as well. It could be that there were remains from two bodies, rather than just one. The police are being very vague about it."

He added: “Who knows how long they were there for.

"We had a lot of snow here before Christmas and the pond was completely frozen over so the remains could have been hidden under the ice and then come to the surface.”

Man spots 'headless human torso' in pond two days before police find body partsThe pond is in Harlow, Essex (Harlow Council)

Speaking today, police said it was "too early" to establish the identity of the person found, but that officers were working "relentlessly" to establish the circumstances around the discovery.

Mr Kirby said: "We were called shortly before 2pm, on Saturday, by a member of the public who reported a suspicious object in the water. Forensic officers have since confirmed these to be human remains.

"Due to the circumstances in which these remains were found, we believe the person's death is suspicious, and are treating as murder.

"Our investigation is in the early stages and we have a large team of dedicated officers working around the clock on it.

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Man spots 'headless human torso' in pond two days before police find body partsBodyparts were found at the scene (Essex Police)

"This person is someone's loved one, someone's family member, and they will have questions about how and why they were killed.

"We are committed to finding out what happened, and who is responsible, and will work relentlessly to bring those responsible to justice."

Mr Kirby declined to disclose what body parts had been found.

Forensic tests are due to take place this week, which will determine characteristics such as the age, gender and ethnicity of the victim.

Man spots 'headless human torso' in pond two days before police find body partsOfficers remain at the scene (East Anglia News Service)

He said: "At this stage, it is too early to be able to identify who the victim is, and that includes things such as the sex and ethnicity of the victim. Some witnesses have indicated that the human remains have been there for some time."

Pressed on if this meant days, weeks or months, he said: "I think the indication is several weeks, currently."

A cordon has been in place around the pond since the remains were found, with the investigation being led by Essex and Kent Serious Crime Directorate.

Searches around the area, in Fourth Avenue, may include draining a pond as specialist officers search for "potentially crucial" evidence, Mr Kirby said.

Man spots 'headless human torso' in pond two days before police find body partsPolice at the scene after human remains were found in the pond (East Anglia News Service)

There will be an increased police presence in the area "for several days to come" due to the "complex" operation of draining the pond, which is fed by an underground spring believed to date back to the 12th century when it supplied fish for a local monastery.

It is now a popular spot for fishermen and has jetties and wooden platforms for the use of anglers, and was restored in an £80,000 project in 2017.

Police teams were seen cutting back vegetation in the wooded area surrounding the pond as they searched for clues.

Teams of white-suited forensic officers have also been seen searching the surrounding woodland since the discovery.

Man spots 'headless human torso' in pond two days before police find body partsA police cordon at the pond in woodland next to a NHS hospital (East Anglia News Service)

Councillor Russell Perrin, leader of Harlow Council, said: "I am shocked and saddened as this awful situation has developed within one of our pond areas in the town. I know that this is a concerning time for our residents and the police are working hard to establish what has happened."

He added: "There has been contact between the police and the council and our permission has been given for the pond to be drained as part of the investigation. We continue to support the police and it is important that they are given as much time as they need to find out what has happened.

Man spots 'headless human torso' in pond two days before police find body partsOfficers remain at the scene in Harlow, Essex (East Anglia News Service)

"The police will be keeping us and the community updated on their investigation. Cordons around the area will remain in place over the coming days. We ask that residents continue to respect the cordons that are in place."

And a local resident said: “It is shocking news. This area is a beautiful spot and there are always people walking around.”

Anyone with information or footage relating to the incident is urged to contact Essex Police, quoting incident 582 of December 31.

Kelly-Ann Mills

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