Day of drama for severed head officers

IT was an unlikely setting for a CID briefing. Customers with bags of shopping from Iceland and Lidl walked past unaware as five detectives huddled with clipboards in the centre of the car park on West Granton Road.

The reason for the activity would soon become clear – as the store shutters were closed and uniformed officers cleared the area, a white-suited forensic team started work.

It came yesterday amid a dramatic day of police activity linked to the discovery of a woman's severed head in a blue Ikea shopping bag beside a Newhaven footpath on Hogmanay.

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As well as the car park, police searched two separate addresses in the Capital as DNA tests revealed that the remains belonged to 44-year-old Heather Stacey, who lived in Edinburgh. Police have appealed for anyone who knew her to come forward.

Detectives say that Ms Stacey, whose family have been notified of her death, is believed to have died within the last two years. Tests are continuing to establish the exact circumstances of her death.

It was reported today that she had lived with her then partner Douglas Woolard in Polton Road West, Lasswade, until 2003. It is understood that she had never been reported missing.

Meanwhile, Alan Cameron appeared on petition at Edinburgh Sheriff Court charged in connection with the discovery of her remains in Hawthornvale.

The 54-year-old, who is believed to have worked at the Spar store on Lindsay Road, is said to deny any involvement in the woman's death. He was charged with attempting to defeat the ends of justice over the course of the past year, and breach of the peace. He made no plea and was remanded in custody.

Police say they expect the search operation to continue over the coming days. A flat in Royston Mains Place, a few minutes walk from the Iceland and Lidl stores, and another address in the Pleasance were both examined by detectives yesterday.

Residents in Royston said police had arrived on Wednesday to search a home within a block of flats at the north end of the road.

Among the items seen by neighbours being removed was an armchair which had been covered in plastic sheeting. Bags of potential evidence were also taken away.

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Phil Hubbard, 41, an Asda worker who lives on the street, said: "The police came on Wednesday and they've been here ever since. The officers in white suits arrived and must have been searching the flat."

He added: "The blinds have been drawn on the windows of that flat for a while. I think a woman lived there. I've lived here for two-and-a-half years but I haven't seen her in about a year. She had a boyfriend who would come round."

Margaret Stewart, 34, a housewife, who also lives in Royston Mains Place, said: "The police haven't told us what's going on. The police have never been round the doors to ask anything. I'm sure it was a woman who lived in the flat but I can't remember the last time I saw her. I didn't know her name."

At least one police car was outside the address all day yesterday, with another officer posted in the common stair outside the flat.

A lone CID detective visited the property briefly yesterday afternoon to check on the flat.

Meanwhile, the supermarket car park was sealed off by officers who first descended on the scene on Thursday evening. An area of scrubland next to the car park's embankment was taped off and a police guard posted overnight.

The five CID detectives arrived at 11am yesterday and walked around the location, deciding which areas needed to be searched.

Managers at the Lidl and Iceland stores both closed their doors shortly after the police conference ended and the cordon was extended to the whole car park.

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A van and trailer belonging to the forensics unit had arrived at about midday and four of its specialists began examining the patch of scrubland, its undergrowth littered with empty beer cans and other rubbish. Clad head to toe in white, they moved slowly and took many photographs. Uniformed officers stopped pedestrians from walking on the pavement above the car park as the operation continued. It was finally reopened at around 4pm.

At nearby Granton Square, more taped-off scrubland was awaiting further forensic checks. A roadway leading to a children's playpark was blocked with traffic cones while land next to the playpark was also sectioned off.

Another police car was parked next to the empty building which once housed the firm Stadia Signs, and wasteground to its rear was taped off. Last night, it was expected that a forensic team would also visit the site to conduct a sweep.

The address of the property searched in the Pleasance area is not known. Forensics officers have been carrying out detailed searches of the footpath at Hawthornvale since Ms Stacey's remains were found. The path remained sealed off yesterday.

After the discovery of the head on Hogmanay, officers found a number of other bones in bags, along with "various materials".

Cameron, who is single, was arrested in the early hours of yesterday morning.

A police spokesman said:

"Officers are carrying out a number of searches in Edinburgh as part of the ongoing inquiry. These searches are expected to continue over the coming days.

"Police are appealing for anyone who has any knowledge of Heather Stacey to contact them immediately."

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