BREAKING NEWS: Police searching for missing architect Jo Yeates discover a woman’s body

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 1:39 PM on 25th December 2010

  • Discovery made about four miles from the missing architect’s flat
  • No official identification made as pathologist is called to the scene
  • Grim find made early this morning by a couple walking their dog

Graduate: Joanna Yeates' disappearance from an affluent area of Bristol remains a mystery

Graduate: Joanna Yeates’ disappearance from an affluent area of Bristol remains a mystery

Police hunting for missing architect Joanna Yeates have found a body.

The discovery was made today by a couple walking their dogs in the Failand area of North Somerset, an Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said.

A force spokesman said: ‘At 9am this morning a couple walking their dogs found the body of a young woman in a roadside verge in Longwood Lane in the Failand area of North Somerset.

‘The area has been cordoned off and Longwood Lane has been closed at both ends by police, pending an examination of the scene by crime scene investigators.

‘A pathologist will be attending the scene to examine the body.

‘At this moment in time it is far too early to confirm the cause of death or any circumstances.’

Miss Yeates has not been seen or heard from since Friday last week, following a night out with work colleagues in Bristol.

Her boyfriend Greg Reardon, 27, reported her missing on Sunday night after returning home to their flat in Clifton, from a weekend away in Sheffield visiting family.

Detectives are investigating the possibility that Miss Yeates was abducted and said it was one of several lines of inquiry.

She was last seen leaving the Ram pub in Park Street at about 8pm, walking up the street.

She popped into a Waitrose on the way – where she was seen on CCTV – rang her best friend to arrange to meet on Christmas Eve and then went to the Tesco Express on Regent Street, a quarter of a mile from her flat.

Officers released footage of her buying a pizza in Tesco, which has become a key part of the investigation.

There was no trace of the pizza, the wrapping or the box in the flat that Miss Yeates shared with her boyfriend – despite the fact that the receipt, the coat she was wearing, and her mobile phone and keys were inside.

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

News of the grim discovery comes after detectives investigating the Miss Yeates’s disappearance began looking at similarities with the vanishing of chef Claudia Lawrence.

Officers admitted yesterday the cases are factually similar – but said there is no evidence yet to suggest the cases are linked.

Blonde Claudia, 35, vanished from her home in Heworth, York, in March 2009 and was reported missing when she failed to turn up for work.

Like 25-year-old Joanna, her bank cards and other personal possessions were left at home but no trace of her has ever been found.

Jo’s disappearance also bears chilling similarities to that of Melanie Hall, who vanished after leaving a nightclub in nearby Bath, Somerset, in 1996.

Her remains were found dumped on a motorway sliproad in October last year – 13 years after she went missing.

North Yorkshire Police and Avon and Somerset Police confirmed yesterday that they have ‘liaised’ over the disappearance of Jo.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: ‘It is too early to say if there are any links with the investigation into the disappearance of Claudia Lawrence as the Bristol enquiry is in the very early stages.

‘However, North Yorkshire Police have been in contact with Avon and Somerset Police and will continue that liaison over the coming days.’

Chief Superintendent Jon Stratford of Avon and Somerset Police said: ‘Our investigations team have been contacted by their team (North Yorks Police) but there is nothing to suggest a link between the two disappearances.’

Mr Stratford said there had been a ‘fantastic response’ from the public so far in the hunt for Miss Yeates.

‘We continue to ask anyone who was in the Clifton area on Friday night and even over the weekend if anyone saw anything that they thought might be suspicious or heard anything suspicious or has got any information, which could assist us in finding Joanna, then please do come forward,’ he said.

‘All we want desperately is to find Joanna safe and well, so if she can hear this, please do get in touch with us and tell us where she is and we will take very good care of her.’

‘It is still a missing persons inquiry, I do want to stress that, but obviously it is very, very unusual for somebody just to go missing from their address in Clifton, which is why we do have grave concerns for Joanna, which is why we are putting the level of resource we are into this,’ Mr Stratford said.

‘We are determined to get to the bottom of this and find out what’s happened to Joanna.’

The find comes two days after Miss Yeates’s parents, David and Theresa, made an emotional appeal for their daughter.

Mr Yeates, 63, said: ‘Just let her go. If you have … if she is dead, then please tell somebody where she is. We want her back whatever.’

And he sobbed as he went on: ‘I was stood outside having a cigarette. It was cold. I was thinking my daughter, maybe she was out there by herself in the snow, frozen. It breaks me up. I want to be there to hold her.’

Mrs Yeates added in a desperate plea to any abductor: ‘Just let her go. Let her go, let her come back to me and her dad and her family. Please.’

They said their daughter and Mr Reardon had been due to visit their home in Ampfield, Hampshire, for Christmas.

Mr Yeates said: ‘Christmas is postponed as far as we are concerned. Everything is on hold and we can’t celebrate anything.

‘We want to think about Jo in our own way and hope and pray for her. If she’s being held by someone, please let her go.’

Mr Reardon, who had left for Sheffield before Miss Yeates returned from the pub, said on Wednesday: ‘I desperately want her back – I thought we would be together forever.

‘She was my future. This Christmas was going to be our first together. I was going to spend it with her family, which is always a big deal for a boyfriend.

‘We were both really happy in our jobs – we worked together and that’s how we met.’

Friends of Miss Yeates have set up the website and an online campaign is running on both Facebook and Twitter.

People have also been putting up posters across Clifton appealing for information.

Peter Lawrence, the father of York chef Claudia Lawrence who has been missing since March 2009, said today he was ‘very distressed’ to hear of Miss Yeates’s disappearance and his thoughts and prayers went to her family and friends.

‘I have some idea of what they are going through: it’s the not knowing what has happened to Jo that is the most emotionally draining and worrying experience and particularly hard to deal with at Christmas,’ he said.

Chief Superintendent Mr Stratford said he was unaware of any contact between the detectives investigating Miss Yeates’ disappearance and the murder of Melanie Hall in Bath in 1996.

Miss Hall, a blonde 25-year-old university graduate, disappeared following a night out in Bath in June 1996.

Her remains were found at the side of the M5 motorway in October last year. Her killer has never been caught.

‘I am not aware of any contact between the two teams and at the current time I am not aware of anything to connect the disappearance of Melanie Hall with this disappearance,’ Mr Stratford said.