The cold case investigation into missing mum Natalia Doherty took a shocking twist after a body was unearthed from a Luton garden several days ago.
Examination of the body has so far revealed it is a female.
And police have told the press that in all likelihood, it “probably is” the remains of the missing mum who vanished in 2003.
Det Insp Jerry Waite told the Herald & Post: “Whilst there is no positive identification, the information that brought us to the house in the first place has lead us to believe this probably is Natalia.”
The last confirmed sighting of mum-of-three Natalia was on April 15 2003 in Eastbourne.
It is known she went to stay with her ex-husband Gerald Doherty in the now-demolished Regents Arms pub in Hastings Street, Luton, at around this time.
Gerald Doherty has since died.
Det Insp Waite said: “We know she was in Luton just after April 15, but now we’ve identified where’s she’s probably been.
“We’ve got some forensic work going on and we’re hoping that the work they are doing for us will lead us to an identification within the next two or three days.”
After examination of the remains, detectives were faced with breaking the news of the body’s discovery to Natalia’s children yesterday.
Det Insp Waite added: “At this time they are quite upset and distressed as you can imagine.
“When someone goes missing, you always hope in the back of your mind that they will be found alive.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had to break the sad news to them that we believe we have probably found their mother and they are waiting for us to definitely confirm that.”
The family are currently being supported by specialist officers.
A 66-year-old man from Luton was yesterday arrested for murder, having previously been arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender and preventing lawful burial.
Another man from Luton, aged 39, was also arrested on suspicion of murder. Both were in police custody as the Herald & Post went to press last night.
A 71-year-old man living in Port Glasgow, Scotland, remains on bail on suspicion of assisting an offender and preventing a lawful burial.