DETECTIVES are hoping DNA will provide the breakthrough in the investigation into a badly decomposed body found in a “shallow grave” on Corstorphine Hill.
Officers maintain it is too early to say whether the death is suspicious, but believe the remains have been lying in the beauty spot for “months rather than years”.
Investigations are due to continue at the scene for several days, as forensic officers gather evidence. Officers do not believe the body is that of anyone known to be missing.
Detective Chief Inspector Keith Hardie, who is leading the inquiry, said: “One of the possibilities that we are considering is an animal perhaps dug up, or at least exposed the ground around, the body parts we have found.
“We genuinely have no idea of sex or age so that will be one of our priorities.”
He added: “DNA and dental records will be the most obvious ways for us to try and make an identification.
“If we can obtain DNA then that’s a good starting point for us. First and foremost it’s about the recovery of the body itself.”
It is understood police yesterday visited the family of murdered Suzanne Pilley, whose body has never been found, to inform them of the discovery. However, the remains are not thought to be those of the missing bookkeeper.
The remains were found in woodland by a walker at 5.30pm on Thursday, prompting officers to seal off the nature reserve while forensic inquiries were carried out.
A team of anthropologists, archaeologists and pathologists are working alongside police experts at the scene.
DCI Hardie added that no ID was found on the victim while neither weapons nor obvious signs of suicide were present at the scene.
The site, on the same hill as Edinburgh Zoo and popular with dog walkers, remains sealed off.
DCI Hardie said: “[The remains] were found in a more secluded area, off the main path, but it was obviously visible to the member of the public when they got closer.
“We are now carrying out the painstaking process of the recovery with the help of anthropologists, archaeologists and pathologists to ensure we do not lose any evidential opportunity.
“It’s a matter of spending how long it takes to recover the remains and be satisfied that we’ve done all we can.
“We expect that the process could take until Monday or Tuesday and then the postmortem can be held to try and establish a cause of death.
“The remains are not historical and are relatively recent. I would say they have been there for a matter of months rather than years.”
DCI Hardie said that it was “too early” to say whether the death was suspicious.
He added: “We don’t suspect that the identity belongs to anyone on the missing persons list, and it would be unfair on those families that do have someone missing to
“We would appeal to anyone who can shed light on the this person’s identity, or if they are aware of anyone being missing.”
Police closed the bus lane on Corstorphine Road yesterday to allow specialist vehicles access to the area.
Residents in the area said they were shocked by the grim discovery.
Aileen Paterson, 65, said: “There were four police cars parked there all night and were still there when I left yesterday morning at 8.15am.
“They’ve got police on every entrance as there’s three that I know of.
“I would never go up there on my own. I’d be very nervous about it. I mean it could have happened somewhere else and they moved the body there, but it’s quite open and you can’t park a car up there.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 or through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.